Supreme Court refuses appeal, “party mom” heads to jail

It’s closing time on the case of a St. Augustine mother convicted of supplying teenagers with booze and drugs at her home, which led to the deaths of two teen-agers. Last week, the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Diane Katz Santarelli. She must now report to serve her 364 days in the St. Johns County Jail, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Santarelli went to trial with mixed results in 2010. She was found not guilty of manslaughter – a felony and by far the most serious charge. But the jury also convicted her on holding and open house party and contributing the delinquency of minors – both misdemeanors. She was sentenced to a day less than a year in the country jail. She immediately appealed, and the judge postponed her sentence awaiting the outcome.

Santarelli was the first adult in Florida to be convicted under the states “house party” laws that hold parents legally accountable for what happens to minors if they drink or do drugs in the residence. The case garnered national attention – as much for the sensational nature as the interesting legal precedent. Public service campaigns about these potential charges usually ramp up in the spring, when high school proms and graduations are in full bloom. But there are rarely concrete examples of punishment – until now.

In this St. Augustine criminal case, several witnesses gave similar accounts of Santarelli not only providing the alcohol and drugs, but being an active participant in the parties.
These cases can be tough to prove, especially when jurors are likely aware that teens can readily access alcohol – and have for years – and may reason that if they didn’t get it from the parent on the stand, they’d get it elsewhere. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Firm knows the facts it takes to get an arrest aren’t always enough for a judge and a jury.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in St. Augustine or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our St. Johns County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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