Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Safeguarding a Happy 2010 Prom Season

We’re coming to that special time of year again….PROM Season! A time to create cherished memories and show our young people how much we care about them in an evening of fun never to be forgotten! But let’s remember that one of the most important things we can do for youth at this time is to keep them safe and substance free. Let’s protect this time-honored tradition by taking steps to prevent the many possible tragedies than can and do accompany underage drinking every year.

The Social Host 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

How can people 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, in terms of intention, perhaps if you have taken precautions such as forbidding such a gathering, you child still can be. And you legally must 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 twelve hours, alerting families as an effective way to prevent this from happening again.

Let’s teach children by example to respect the law this prom season. Carefully consider your responsibility when you host a social event that includes anyone under age 21. Both your responsibility and liability are greater than most people think.

Large teen parties can escalate out of control quickly. Don’t take the car keys of young people at a party, that conveys the expectation and tolerance of underage drinking. Be a Safe Home - Pledge to not serve alcohol to minors in the first place. 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 designated driver. Remember, the designated driver is a bad idea with youth; it implies the expectation of a designated drinker.

Furnishing alcohol to anyone under 21 is a CRIME….It’s All about You. Want to know more about MA social host liability law? Check out and

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