Tiny in Halloween-costume, 1983, photo by Mary Ellen Mark (digital image courtesy of Gettys Open Content Program)

Tiny in Halloween costume, 1983, photo by Mary Ellen Mark (digital image courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program)

Halloween is coming up, a time for costumes and fun. Many of us will either be chaperoning children as they trick or trick door to door, or handing out candy to trick or treaters.

It’s also a time of parties, which is where the legal term social host liability comes into play. Social host liability refers to a person’s criminal and civil responsibility for furnishing liquor to guests.

Social Host Laws

States approach social hosting liabilities in the following areas:

  • No liabilities on social hosts
  • Limited liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises
  • Liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes afterward.

In addition, many states have increasingly stringent laws about adults furnishing alcohol to minors.

Be a Parent, Not a Pal

Parents sometimes provide alcohol to teenagers, often under the mistaken belief that their adult supervision can prevent the drinking from getting out of hand or having disastrous repercussions.

Adults have a duty to refrain from negligently or intentionally supplying alcohol to minors. A host can be found negligent if he/she knew — or should have known — that a minor was to drive a car while under the influence. Simply put, don’t provide alcohol for a teenage party at your home or a property you control.

Study: Most Teenagers Drink in Their Homes

If a drunk teenager hits a third party, the host who served the teen alcohol can be liable

If a drunk teenager hits a third party, the host who served the teen alcohol could be liable (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), most teenagers drink alcohol in their private homes.

Additionally, a 2005 study of teenagers between 13 and 18, researched by the the American Medical Association (AMA), revealed:

  • 2 of 3 teenagers claimed it was easy to obtain alcohol
  • 1 of 3 claimed their parents consented to providing the alcohol
  • 2 of 5 claimed friends’ parents provided the alcohol
  • 1 of 4 claimed they had witnessed teenage friends drinking openly in their homes in front of parents.

State Laws Against Those Who Host Underage Drinking Parties

The Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) provides the below map which reflects which states have social hosting laws against individuals who host underage drinking parties on property they own, lease or otherwise control:

Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties as of January 1, 2014

Stay safe and enjoy your Halloween!

(image is in the public domain)

(image is in the public domain)

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Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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All rights reserved by Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned or licensed by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any photos noted as being in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.