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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Parents Held Liable for Underage Drinking

The use of alcohol by middle-schoolers and high school students typically begins in the household. Many parents believe that if kids are going to drink that it is safer they do it at home. While that may seem like sound judgement, it may be sending the wrong message to youngsters about drinking and the long lasting side effects of drinking at a young age. Furthermore, parents who allow their teens to have friends over to drink, in attempt to keep them off the roads, may be subject to liability laws resulting in lawsuits, fines, and even jail time.

Students Against Destructive Decisions were co-sponsored by the insurance company Liberty Mutual to conduct research. They 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.

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.

A Stanford University professor was arrested in November after his 17-year-old son had a party in the basement. Despite Professor Bill Burnett’s attempt to forbid alcohol at the party and even checking on the teens a number of times, Burnett 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.

According to the Associated Press:
  • 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
  • In some of the states, parents are allowed to serve alcohol to their own children in certain situations.
  • In 16 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.

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