St. Johns County police make arrests at three open house parties

Shortly after school lets out and the kids are no longer worried about finals and papers, some Jacksonville-area police departments heighten their awareness of partying by teen-agers. And parents need to be aware that they can be held criminally responsible if parties with drugs or alcohol being consumed by minors happen under their watch. St. Johns County police busted three parties in the past week, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. In one case in Fruit Cove, police came to a house and saw teen-agers in the front with plastic cups and saw them run when police arrived, some into the home, the newspaper reported. Police asked the 51-year-old homeowner about the party and he said he was asleep and didn’t know it was going on. He was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and holding an open house party in St. Johns County. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida punishable by up to a year in jail. Holding an open house party in Florida is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail.

The house party charge is more commonly applied in cases like this, and was also charged in the two other busts this month, the newspaper reported. The stakes are raised if someone is hurt or killed as a result of the party. For example, if a teen drives drunk after consuming alcohol at an open house party and either seriously injures or kills him or herself, the charge against the person in control of the residence would be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor. In that case, the person would face up to one year in jail. There were no serious injuries reported in any of these three cases, so the standard second-degree misdemeanor would apply. In order to prove a charge of holding an open house party in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties, the state must show: the person had control of the house, meaning the authority to dictate what happens there; the person allowed the party to take place; minors were either drinking or doing drugs; the person knew that type of behavior was going on, or should have known it was going on and did not take reasonable steps to prevent it. There are obviously many moving parts in a case like this and it often comes down to how much the person should have known. If, as in the Fruit Cove case, the homeowner was asleep and the alcohol, for example, was brought in after he went to bed, should he have known? That’s a difficult question and one that may ultimately be put in the hands of a jury.

If police come to talk to you about an open house party at your house or apartment, the best course of action is to call a St. Johns County Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. Many people think that a misdemeanor, especially a second-degree misdemeanor, is something they can handle on their own. But an experienced St. Johns County criminal defense lawyer could be the difference in clearing your name and having a permanent stain on your criminal record. If you or a loved one is facing an open house party charge, call our St. Johns County criminal defense attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem. Our St. Augustine Criminal Attorney has represented thousands of people charged with crimes in Jacksonville and the surrounding area. Call The Mussallem Law Firm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation.