Friday, January 20, 2012

Liability Laws Make Parents Responsible for Underage Drinking in their Home

Recently the Partnership at posted the following on their jointogether blog.

ARTICLE: "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."

There is a bill making its way through the general assembly in Indiana that has to do with this very thing. It is Senate Bill 0134 and it states:

Synopsis: Social host liability. Requires a person at least 21 years of age who knows that a minor is in possession of an alcoholic beverage on the person's property to: (1) prohibit the minor from possessing the alcoholic beverage; (2) confiscate the alcoholic beverage; and (3) immediately contact the minor's parent, guardian, or custodian; unless the alcoholic beverage is possessed in connection with a religious observation, in the presence of the minor's parent, or at a postsecondary educational institution. Makes a violation a Class C infraction, or a Class B infraction if the person knows that six or more minors possessed an alcoholic beverage or if the person has been adjudged to have committed a prior violation. Provides that a person may be charged with a violation not more than one time per day. Specifies that a judgment for a violation is in addition to any criminal penalty that may be imposed for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. (The introduced version of this bill was prepared by the commission on mental health and addiction.)

It has been assigned to the Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil matters. We will keep you posted as this bill moves through the system.

Last year Indiana's first social host ordinance was enacted in the town of Pendleton in Madison County. Adults providing alcohol and hosting parties for minors are the target. Police now have a new enforcement tool to cite parents and adults for furnishing alcohol to minors. Watch a video about the ordinance here.

If you are interested in talking about an ordinance here in Tippecanoe County contact us!

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