For many high schoolers, prom season will soon lead into graduation party season, and while it can be a very fun time for your teen, it can also be nerve wracking for parents who know their kids may push they limits when school is out. Underage drinking is one of the biggest concerns for parents during this time, and a number of them have the mindset that they would rather have their kids drink alcohol in their home where they can monitor their behavior than in some parent-less house. While we understand that sentiment, if you play host to underage drinking, you are opening yourself up to criminal and civil liability.
Host Liability Laws in Minnesota
About a decade ago, Minnesota passed what’s known as the host liability law after a 19-year-old died following a night of drinking at a friend’s parent’s house where the adults knew underage drinking was taking place. Prior to the law, the parents could not be held responsible for the actions of the child, but legislators decided to enact a host liability law in hopes that parents would be more proactive in stopping underage drinking if they knew they could be held legally responsible for their child’s actions.
The law states that a host, resident or property owners where underage drinking takes place can be held legally responsible for the actions of the minor who consumed alcohol. The law states that the property owner must know or have reason to believe that underage drinking is taking place in order to be held responsible. Even if you didn’t supply the alcohol, if you know or suspect that underage drinking is taking place on your property, you are now liable for the actions of those minors. Feigning ignorance won’t work either. If you buy your underage roommate or sibling alcohol and are gone for the night, you can still be held liable for their actions.
Penalties and Defenses
A violation of Minnesota’s social host liability law is considered a misdemeanor offense, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000. However, the biggest blow may come on the civil side. You may be held civilly liable for any damage to property or another person by the minor, so if they get in a car accident, you better hope you have good insurance. Property damage and personal injuries can also lead to additional criminal charges against the host.
The only real defense to argue is that you were unaware that drinking was taking place. This is going to be tough to prove, because there is an expectation of awareness that comes with being the head of the household that is hosting underage adults. However, if you can prove that you didn’t buy your child the alcohol and that there was little reason to suspect that drinking was taking place, you may be able to beat the charges
We’ve helped defend clients against host liability charges in the past, and while we’d be happy to help you if it came to that, please be aware of your household and your child’s actions as we head towards summer and graduation party season. This should be a fun time in a teen’s life, but one wrong decision can have lifelong consequences. Don’t be a party to underage drinking, and if a problem develops, give the experienced team at Appelman Law Firm a call today.