Missouri judge dismisses charge against party host

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman accused of providing alcohol to a teenage party guest who was involved in a fatal crash cannot be prosecuted for the death, a judge ruled.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Peggy Stevens McGraw cited state law and earlier court decisions in dismissing a charge of involuntary manslaughter against the woman, The Kansas City reported (http://bit.ly/MVlf2E).

"While other states have concluded that social hosts may be held liable to third parties for injuries inflicted by an intoxicated person, Missouri has not," McGraw wrote in her order Friday.

Sandra S. Triebel, 47, still faces misdemeanor charges of supplying alcohol to a minor and allowing a minor to consume alcohol on her property. Her lawyer declined to comment on the judge's dismissal of the felony charge.

Jackson County prosecutors claim Triebel furnished alcohol for a Halloween party in 2009 and knew that 19-year-old Kenneth Blake II was drunk when he left her Kansas City home.

Blake's blood-alcohol level was more than twice Missouri's legal limit when he was involved in a crash that killed a 16-year-old passenger in another vehicle. He is now serving a six-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter and assault.

In charging Triebel with involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors challenged Missouri's long legal tradition of blaming only drunken drivers for fatal accidents, rather than the person who supplied the alcohol. Prosecutors said Triebel exhibited "criminal negligence" by putting into play the series of events that led to the fatal crash.

But McGraw found that Missouri law specifically states that consuming alcohol, not furnishing it, is "the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by a drunk driver."

"Therefore, this court is reluctant to find that a social host can be held criminally liable for the actions of the underage drinker without a clear declaration from the legislature," she wrote.

The county prosecutor's office declined to comment because the misdemeanor case against Triebel is still pending.

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