Furnishing alcohol to anyone under 21 is a CRIME….It’s All about You.
The law in Massachusetts is clear: …whoever furnishes alcohol for a person under 21 years of age shall be punished by: 1) a fine of up to $2000, 2) imprisonment for up to a year, or 3) both.
“Furnish” shall mean to knowingly of intentionally supply, give, provide to, or allow to possess alcoholic beverages on premises of property owned or controlled by the person charged.
Massachusetts General Law, chapter 138, section 34.
A Social Host is anyone, adult or juvenile, who is in control of the premises, who serves or allows alcohol to be served. Social Host Liability is the legal and financial responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest, which increases exponentially if and when the guest incurs property damage, kills or hurts themselves or a third party on or after leaving your premises. Host Liability is the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibili
ty of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest.
How can parents protect themselves from social host liability? Don’t serve alcohol to anyone under 21. Don’t allow anyone under 21 to possess or consume alcohol on your property. Make your rules and expectations clear to all guests.
Even if your child has a party while you are away that you do not know about, you can pay the consequences. Because the law applies to those under 21, as well. So while you may not be found liable, especially if you have taken precautions such as explicitly forbidding such a gathering, you child still can be. And you are responsible to pay for all damages incurred that your children are found responsible for under age 21.
If a social host is found guilty criminally, the door opens very fast for large-dollar civil suits, which are easy to prosecute once criminal guilt has been established. The amount of these suits may often exceed the extent of your home insurance, and ultimately, your ability to pay.
What happens if you give a party that you intend to be alcohol & drug free, and then you find kids drinking or drugging on your property? You should not let a kid who has taken drugs or alcohol leave. You must either call his or her parents, or call the police.
Calling the police is appropriate when anyone on your property appears drunk, impaired or not well. If there is a medical emergency, police will call EMTs to bring a person to a hospital for medical care. Also, the police can place the impaired persons in protective custody for 12 hours, alerting families in an effective way to prevent this from happening again.
Carefully consider your responsibility when you host a social event that includes anyone under age 21. It is greater than most people think. Be a Safe Home - Pledge to not serve alcohol to minors. Let your kids go only to the houses of other families who have done the same.
Hosting an adult party? Remind your guests to plan ahead, always offer alcohol-free beverages during the event, and make sure all of your guests leave with a sober driver.
Want to know more about MA social host liability law? Check out www.socialhostliability.org.