THE FAIRFAX County bashbusters case came to an end this week, but important policy questions remain. Robert and Retha Morgan, who made the mistake of giving a party for their son's graduating class at Oakton High School, pleaded no contest to charges of aiding and abetting the consumption of alcohol by minors -- charges that had been brought because some guests at the party -- classmates and friends of their 18-year-old son -- were drinking during the celebration. In exchange for the plea, other charges against Mrs. Morgan, who later that same evening had failed a Breathalyzer test, were dropped.
The Morgans had notified police in advance that they were giving the party, had sought the advice of authorities and had posted "Please, No Alcohol" signs around the house. They had not given or sold any alcohol to the guests. More than 200 people turned up at the party, though, and in spite of the efforts by the Morgans to cooperate with authorities and observe the law, some of those invited brought and consumed their own alcoholic drinks.
The Fairfax commonwealth's attorney's office has agreed to dismiss the case entirely if there is no additional violation -- can you imagine that the Morgans would go through this again? -- in the next six months. Nevertheless, what remains troubling is the Fairfax County police department's policy of crashing parties in plainclothes when there has been no complaint from any citizen that the party is creating a disturbance. To go onto private property without a warrant, without a request from the host family and without a single call from a neighbor is intrusive and wrong. As another local police chief put it, the department should have better things to do.
If a party is so noisy or disruptive as to be disturbing the neighborhood, certainly the police should respond. And if a single intoxicated person of any age attempts to drive a car, he should be arrested. But neither of these things happened at the Morgan party. Whether or not police intrusions into private functions of this kind are technically legal -- and apparently they are -- they are bad policy and should be discourage