Most people understand that underage drinking is illegal and can lead to criminal consequences for teenagers. For instance, the underage person may face criminal charges and can lose various privileges such as their driving privileges.
Illinois, for example, imposes legal consequences on adults who serve alcohol to teenagers or who allow them to drink in their homes. Often, the adult doesn’t even need to hand the drink directly to the teenager. If a teen drinks in the adult’s presence, the adult might be held responsible.
Additionally, some states enforce “presence ordinances,” which state that if underage drinking occurs at a social event, then all persons present may be assumed to have been drinking. This can lead to very weighty liabilities for the homeowner under social host liability laws.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 established a 21-year-old drinking age. Under federal law, states prohibit persons under 21 years of age from buying or possessing alcoholic beverages publicly.
According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 9.3 million persons aged 12 to 20 (24.3 percent) reported drinking alcohol in the past month, and an estimated 11.2 percent of people aged 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once during the past year.
To combat underage drinking, lawmakers have enacted laws that assign responsibility to adults who permit minors to drink alcohol at social gatherings. Licensees such as restaurants, bars, and liquor stores are not covered by social host statutory provisions, as dram shop laws cover them.
What Are the Penalties Associated with Adult Liability for Teen Drinking?
It depends on each state’s laws and the specific circumstances in each case. In some states, adults can be charged with a misdemeanor for providing alcohol to a minor. Misdemeanors usually carry criminal fines and jail sentences of up to one year. An adult may be held liable even if the alcohol did not injure the teen or other parties.
If serving alcohol to the teenager results in injuries, the adult may face felony charges. This is especially true if drunk driving or DUI injuries result. It is much more difficult to deal with felony charges because they carry higher criminal fines and the possibility of being sentenced to a prison facility for longer than one year.
As mentioned earlier, an adult doesn’t always have to hand the drink to the underage person physically; if they should have reasonably known there would be underage drinking on their property but failed to prevent it, they might also be held liable.
Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit for Parents Who Provide Alcohol to Teens?
In some states, adults who provide alcohol to teens may be held vicariously liable for their actions. If your child suffers injuries as a result of underage drinking, you may have to sue the adult who supplied them with alcohol.
Depending on how your child was injured, there may be adults responsible for their injuries. Suppose you know that an adult provided alcohol to your child or another underage drinker. In that case, they may be held criminally and civilly liable for any damages the underage drinker causes.
In judging a liability case, courts may consider the minor’s history. Has the adult served liquor to minors, or have they been known to drink? The court will consider other relevant factors. Was the alcohol locked up and available to minors? Were there any rules prohibiting illegal drinking? Were they enforced? Was it okay for guests who had a reputation for drinking to attend the party? Were there parents or an adult chaperone present? Did the parents have a contingency plan if alcohol did show up at the party? If a minor was drunk, were alternative transportation arrangements made in advance, such as designated drivers or provisions for a parent or cab company to take them home? These factors and others may mitigate the verdict, judgment, or award.
Teenagers often tell their parents that no one will drink at a party and no alcohol will be present. However, within three hours, alcohol is evident everywhere. Children bring their own liquor or beer. Party kegs are commonly stored on the property before the event. Often, these parties get out of hand, resulting in complaints from neighbors about noise and nuisance. If the police are called to a party, they are often forced to observe, investigate, and usually issue a complaint, summons, or make an arrest. People’s reputations are ruined.
The combination of drinking and driving can result in accidents. In addition to malicious mischief, unwanted sexual activities, assault and battery, and clinical toxicity, drinking can cause other incidents.
Can I File a Claim Against the Parent’s Homeowner’s Insurance?
Most parents know that their minor children drink or will likely drink socially. Peer pressure influences this behavior. It is common for parents to permit youth parties at their residence to enforce a no-drinking rule or control the drinking and prevent the minor and their guests from hurting themselves or others.
Parents may, in an attempt to be responsible, hold the car keys for their minors and guests or require their minors and guests to stay overnight so that they will not leave the premises under the influence of alcohol. Some social hosts arrange for their minor guests’ parents to come to pick them up after the party so that no minor who has been drinking has to drive home.
If your child is injured after drinking at a friend’s house, you may be able to file a claim against the friend’s parents. You might be able to file a claim against their homeowner’s insurance if the alcohol was consumed in their home. Underage drinking may result in injuries or damages covered by their insurance.
You need to contact a personal injury lawyer if your child was injured as a result of underage drinking. You can speak with a lawyer about your options. It is possible to file criminal charges against the adult who provided the alcohol. You may even be able to sue the parent.
Remember, proving that an adult provided alcohol or allowed drinking at home can be difficult. Your child may have to say what happened. Your child may have to testify against their friends. This is something that nobody wants. Personal injury lawyers work hard to resolve cases so that this isn’t necessary.
Are There Any Defenses for Adult Liability for Teen Drinking?
There may be some defenses that can be raised against these types of charges. It might be possible for the charges to be dropped if the person wasn’t legally of drinking age. It may also be a defense if the person could not prevent the drinking (for example, they tried to stop the drinking but were prevented by physical force).
Such defenses, however, can sometimes be complicated and require a thorough analysis of all the relevant details of the incident. For help with legal defenses to such charges, it is usually necessary to hire a criminal lawyer.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Assistance With Teen Drinking laws?
Adult liability for teen drinking is becoming increasingly common among the 50 U.S. states. If you have any legal inquiries, disputes, or concerns involving social hosts and underage drinking, you should contact a qualified juvenile lawyer immediately.
An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and how to proceed. A lawyer can also represent your interests in court if you need to file a lawsuit or attend a court hearing.