Understanding Underage Alcohol Use: The Laws, Facts, and Your Liability

Social Host Liability Law

As an adult and a parent, it is wise for you to know the laws regarding youth and alcohol in order to protect yourself and your children. Drinking alcohol puts youth at greater risk for participating in other risky behaviors like using other drugs, becoming sexually active too early, and attempting suicide.

If you are 21 or older, it is against the law to purchase or supply alcohol to youth under 21. It is also illegal to allow youth under 21 to drink in a place under your control. If you host a party or event at which alcohol is served, you are liable for any actions that take place as a result of a party-goer’s use of alcohol. This applies whether the party-goer is a minor or of legal age.

 

The liability one assumes when one hosts an event or party where alcohol is served, provided, or allowed to be consumed applies to:

 

  • Any homeowner who hosts (whether the host is an adult or a minor) an event where alcohol is served, even when the homeowner is not home.
  • A host is civilly responsible for any injury (i.e., alcohol poisoning, car accidents) that occurs as a result of an intoxicated person, from their event, injuring themselves or another.

 

The host is civilly responsible for any injury that occurs as a result of an intoxicated person, from their event, injuring him/her self or another. Injuries may include alcohol poisoning, car accidents and other injuries.

 

Legal penalties include:

  • Civil Liability: There are no limits to the amount of money you can lose if you are sued.
  • Criminal Penalties: Up to 1 year in a house of correction and/or a fine up to $2000.

 

The 2011 Watertown High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 25% of Watertown access their alcohol at a party with no adult present.