Parents who allow their teens to have friends over to drink, thinking it’s a safe way to keep them off the roads, may be surprised to find they are subject to liability laws that make them vulnerable to lawsuits, fines and jail time.
Parents in some states can be liable even if they were not aware that drinking was going on in their home, according to the Associated Press. One Stanford University professor was arrested in November after his 17-year-old son had a party in the basement. The professor, Bill Burnett, said he had forbidden alcohol at the party and had twice checked on the teens. He spent one night in jail and was booked on 44 counts of suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Each count carries up to a $2,500 fine and almost a year in jail.
Eight states have “social host” laws that make parents liable if underage guests in their home are drinking, even if no harm comes to anyone, the AP reports. In some of the states, parents are allowed to serve alcohol to their own children in certain situations.
In 16 other states, laws hold parents responsible for underage drinking in some circumstances, such as if a teenager who drank in their home was in a car accident.
Research conducted by Students Against Destructive Decisions, and co-sponsored by the insurance company Liberty Mutual, found 41 percent of teens say their parents allow them to go to parties where alcohol is being served, compared with 36 percent two years ago.