Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Complaint dismissed in social host ordinance arrest - due to MS

By John A. Williams
Staff Writer
For the first time since its inception 13 months ago, a complaint against a person arrested for violating Edmond's social host ordinance has been dismissed.

Elizabeth Ellen Duncan, 53, and her son Timothy Donald Duncan, 18, were arrested Jan. 26 on the complaint of allowing underage drinking in their home.

Before the Duncans' arraignment hearing Thursday, City Attorney Paul Lakin said he made the decision to dismiss the complaint against Elizabeth Duncan based on medical information and because Duncan's son took full responsibility for the party.

"Had she been the one who set up the party, ran it, knew about it, that would have been the situation,” Lakin said.

Duncan's attorney, Pattye High, said the woman had no idea that there was a party going on in her house.

"She was upstairs asleep,” High said. "Ms. Duncan has multiple sclerosis, so when she came to the door, yes, she was unsteady on her feet, and yes, her speech is slurred, and no, she was absolutely not intoxicated. It was the result of her disability.”

According to an Edmond police report, 15 to 20 people were seen leaving the residence, several of them minors. High said police officers assumed that Duncan was intoxicated and arrested her.

"She was attempting to tell them that she had multiple sclerosis and there was no listening,” High said.

Duncan and her son posted $544 bail each, which also counts as the fine and court costs. Lakin said the money will be returned to Elizabeth Duncan.

Edmond's social host ordinance holds adults responsible when minors drink alcohol in their homes, but High said the wording of the ordinance makes it clear that a person must "knowingly permit” a gathering to be in violation.

"You can't be held criminally responsible for something if you have no knowledge about it going on,” she said. "This poor woman had no idea.”

Edmond City Attorney Stephen Murdock said he doesn't see that as a problem with the ordinance.

"We don't think it's a loophole at all,” he said.