Liability Laws Make Parents Responsible for Underage Drinking in Their Home

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.

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    August 13, 2017 at 2:01 PM

    Ok so parents shouldn’t be responsible? How many “adults” start doing and just keep on going way passed when they were drunk. Adults don’t know when to stop. You’re talking about an 18 year old kid. It’s possible he had three drinks and was inebriated.

    Who would be responsible for this. : A couple of 18 year old boys start drinking in one boys basement. About 2 hours later one of them starts vomiting uncontrollably . Then he starts foaming at the mouth and is turning blue. The boys get scared and the one boy goes upstairs and wakes up his father. He tells him the kid is throwing up real bad so the father goes downstairs rolled him over and looks at him and says “let him sleep it off”. Then goes back upstairs and goes to sleep The boys listen to the father but they knew something was wrong about four hours later so they scooped them up put them in one of the kids cars and they drive him to the hospital he arrived at the hospital around 8 AM in the morning he was pronounced dead at 8:21 in the morning

    So who should be responsible for that

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    Whitey Joe Young

    March 17, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    The story about the Stanford professor illustrates the ridiculous nature of public law in America, and especially California, in these times. Imagine, a parent who set a firm policy of “no alcohol” and actually was proactive in checking that the party was being conducted in accordance with the policy is still arrested and jailed. That does not mean he’s guilty of anything… I would have to bet that the police overstepped their bounds in this case, and he’ll have the charges dismissed, but I wouldn’t be surprised of Justice has an abortion and the poor guy is found guilty by a numb-nuts judge overzealously applying the “let’s make parents responsible” rhetoric.

    Do you know what it is like to have an out-of-control teenager? To have the police come and tell you: Parent your Child! Oh, well, officer, sorry, I guess when he punches holes in the walls and threatens to kill us, we figure that’s a Police Matter. Nope… So the question becomes: if you have someone who is on the very verge of becoming legally an adult IN EVERY WAY except the ability to buy and consume alcohol, WHY are the parents being held accountable EVEN WHEN they do not know what the kid is doing, and have done everything reasonable to keep the alcohol use in the IX-NAY column? This is just complete retardation, and a failure of society to hold KIDS accountable for their actions. It makes me sick. Do you know there are actually proposals to make 19 and 20 year old’s parents responsible for their violations of alcoholic beverage age-restrictions? WHY? These people are ADULTS. If they commit a murder, they can get the Lethal Injection… no Juvenile court. So why are we treating them like little kiddies when it comes to alcohol use and abuse? Man, that is just messed up, that’s all I can say.

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    Mr. Christopher Busse

    January 9, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    The IDEA e-LERT newsletter may have contained some inaccurate inforomation. The newsletter provided a link to a article regarding parental responsibility laws. A recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court (Bell v. Hutsell — Spring 2011) declared a Deerfield couple not civilly liable for the death of an 18-year old who died in a car wreck after drinking at a party held at their home. In light of this recent decision Illinois may not be one of the states mentioned in the article with social host liability laws.

    I am not condoning parents hosting teenager drinking parties but feel the most accurate information should be shared with parents and educators.

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    January 6, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    This is a bit confusing – some states do this and some do that. May have been more informative if we know which states. It should be that parents are held accountable as well as the kids.

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    January 4, 2012 at 6:29 AM

    Its about time parents are held responsible for their children’s actions

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