The San Diego County District Attorney’s office filed charges last week against a Fallbrook mother they say was in violation of Social Host Ordinance (SEC 32.1503) when she reportedly allowed a party to take place at her house where minors were openly consuming alcohol.
Authorities have said that, to the best of their knowledge, this is the first case of its type to be prosecuted relating to the county ordinance, which was drafted in 2003 and amended in 2006.
Deborah Gibney, 48, who was initially arrested relating to the incident on June 10, has submitted a plea of not guilty on misdemeanor charges of both violating the social host ordinance and delaying or obstructing a peace officer.
Law enforcement officers first became aware of the situation when they were called by Fallbrook Hospital regarding a 17-year-old girl who had been brought into the emergency room with what appeared to be alcohol poisoning.
According to Lt. Phil Brust, commander of the Fallbrook Sheriff’s Station, when Deputy Frank Leyva arrived at the hospital and began asking questions of Gibney, she tried to leave the scene.
“The deputy told her he was conducting an investigation and that she was not free to leave,” said Brust. “She did not comply and minor force was used to effect an arrest for…delaying and obstructing a peace officer.”
In addition, Brust said Gibney “wasn’t truthful in telling us what had happened.”
“After that, officers found between 75 and 100 teens or minors on Gibney’s property, where alcohol was being openly consumed,” said Brust. “The first thing [deputies] did was try and evaluate who else needed medical care, if any. Essentially, they were checking on their welfare.”
Brust said between 10 and 15 of the teens at the party were so intoxicated, they became sick to the point of vomiting. “The witnesses described the drunk and sick kids laying around the residence with bowls for their vomit.”
It was made clear in the case that Gibney did not appear to have provided the alcohol for the party but did not attempt to limit or monitor the alcohol consumption that was taking place on her property.
“Therefore, she placed many juveniles and underage persons in danger,” said Brust. “There was no other adult supervision at the party other than Mrs. Gibney. She never called the police to help her control the party.
“In addition, no ambulance was ever called to evaluate the medical condition of the extremely intoxicated female or the condition of other juveniles who were drunk to the point of vomiting.”
Witnesses at the party told officers that they had “tried to persuade Gibney to obtain medical care for the 17-year-old girl, but said she didn’t want to.” Brust said the teens eventually were successful in getting Gibney to leave the party and drive the girl to the hospital.
While some teens were forthcoming with the officers, others weren’t. “Most kids are reluctant to talk; the victim who was taken to the hospital was reluctant,” said Brust.
When asked how clear of a violation of the Social Host Ordinance he felt this case exhibits, Brust said, “If there’s any case that fits this ordinance, it’s this one.”
Deputy District Attorney Robert Eacret, who will be prosecuting the case, said, “We do believe we have the evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [Gibney] is guilty.”
Eacret explained that the Social Host Ordinance is intended to “curb teen drinking.”
“There has been a rise in underage drinking and related deaths,” said Eacret. “We want to hold people accountable. While they might not be providing the alcohol, they are turning a blind eye or providing a place for drinking.”
“The important part of filing this case is that it is a case that holds parents and adults responsible for what happens at their residence,” Brust agreed.
“The days of being the ‘cool’ mom, allowing kids to drink at their home, is passé,” said Brust. “This is just irresponsibility on the part of a parent when it comes to kids under their supervision.”
If found guilty of violating the Social Host Ordinance, Gibney could face up to six months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
On the charge of delaying or obstructing a peace officer, if she is found guilty, she could be sentenced to up to one year in jail.
Gibney’s readiness hearing is scheduled for October 22, with a jury trial beginning December 23.