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Being duped by their kids does not make parents criminals

Yvonne Abraham’s column accusing attorney Tracy Miner of criminal parenting shows naiveté about parenting and the criminal justice system (“Close call that shouldn’t be,” Metro, Jan. 27). Keeping teens safe is not as easy as it sounds. Teens are separating from their parents. When they or their friends engage in risky behavior, they don’t usually tell their parents, especially if their parents will disapprove. Loving parents who are law-abiding citizens and who do not permit their children to drink alcohol get duped all the time.

That is why Massachusetts law limits criminal social host liability to people who knowingly allow underage drinking in their homes. The requirement of proof of wrongful intent is the reason our jails are not full of parents snookered by their children or their children’s friends.

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Those of us experienced with the criminal justice system also know that not everything alleged in police reports is true or sufficient evidence of a crime. This is why Massachusetts law affords people accused of misdemeanors the right to appear before a court clerk and show cause why a criminal complaint should not be issued.

What is unusual about Miner’s situation is that she knew how to defend herself. Affording everyone a right to counsel at a clerk’s hearing would go a long way toward equal application of the law.

Sharon L. Beckman


The writer is associate clinical professor of law at Boston College Law School, where she is codirector of the Criminal Justice Clinic and director of the Boston College Innocence Project.

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