Underage drinking is not only prevalent (around 11% of 8th graders have reported taking part in binge drinking), it’s also very dangerous. Around 5,000 people under the drinking age succumb to an alcohol-related death every year.
You’ve recently discovered teenagers have been drinking under your roof. While you’re incensed at the activity, you’re also relieved: nobody was apparently hurt and hopefully the teens involved have learned their lesson from the foolish act. There are many reasons you should be concerned about underage drinking in your home, even if it wasn’t approved by you or you weren’t even aware of what happened until after the fact.
You Are Liable As the Social Host
If one of the teenager’s parents find out that their child was drinking alcohol under your roof, they can press charges. Even if you didn’t serve any of the teens alcohol or didn’t know they were drinking in the first place, you are considered the Social Host of the occurrence.
In legal terms, a Social Host is the person whose name is on the rental agreement or deed of the home underage drinking occurred in, or the person who actively served alcohol to the teens in question. Basically, this makes you liable for the teenagers’ actions simply because you own or rent your home.
To make matters worse, you may not even get the opportunity to prove that you are actually innocent. Being the adult of the house, and therefore the responsible party of all happenings in the home, you are placed in a position of having to prove that A) you really weren’t aware that teens were drinking, and B) you made all precautions to prevent alcohol from being available to minors in the first place.
If you have alcohol in your home for your own personal consumption, then under the Social Host law, you already are in violation of making your home a safe haven for teens against drinking. This confusing, seemingly unfair, and controversial law can get you in a lot of trouble, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. If parents start to threaten you about pressing charges, take their concerns seriously and get a skilled lawyer to give you legal representation.
You Are Responsible For Repercussions
If a teenager drives drunk after leaving your home and gets into a car accident, then you are responsible for damages to their vehicle and any medical bills. Your homeowners insurance will likely cover the damages, but your premium will go up as a result.
You Can Go To Jail
Underage drinking is a Class A Misdemeanor, and depending on how many teens were drinking under your roof, whether or not it can be proven that you didn’t serve the alcohol and whether anyone got hurt or not, you can actually go to jail for the offense. A variety of charges can be pressed against you, either by the police or the other teens’ parents, under the aforementioned Social Host law or another rule known as voluntary undertaking.
Voluntary undertaking is yet another controversial law: it means you took the necessary steps prior to the incident to prevent teenagers from drinking, but they did anyway. You can still be sued, basically, for trying to keep teenagers from imbibing in your home. Only a lawyer can help you settle matters if you do get sued or have charges pressed against you to prove your innocence and protect your rights.
As you can see, teenagers drinking under your roof without your knowledge is a big deal, one that can lead to dangerous repercussions for you. If you fear the legalities for teens’ drinking actions in your home, call our team of experts at Mesenbourg & Sarratori Law Offices. We can help clear your name and prevent you from facing legal action.