You’re Not Home – Some Kids Start Drinking at Your House- Are You Responsible?

Most parents understand that it is illegal to provide minors with alcohol, even at a well-controlled, responsible party held at their home. Of course, some still choose to do it. But what if kids consume alcohol in your home without your knowledge? Can you still get in trouble? If you ask Stanford Professor Bill Burnett, who was arrested on 44 counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors in 2012, he would likely give you a resounding yes. Burnett and his wife claim to have provided chips and soda for the kids before going to bed only to be woken up hours later when cops responded to a complaint of underage drinking.

Although Burnett claims to have told his son that absolutely no alcohol was permitted, he was charged under social host laws for each of the 44 teens in attendance at his son’s party that night. Each charge was a misdemeanor offense with penalties of jail time and up to $2,000 in fines. About 18 states have social host liability laws, and Massachusetts is one of them. Social host laws prohibit serving or providing access to alcohol to minors, but simply being present in a home where minors are imbibing – even if you are unaware – may result in legal consequences. In fact, parents may even face criminal charges if they weren’t home during an alcohol-infused teen party. If you are facing charges for providing alcohol to a minor, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today.

As stated in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 138 section 34:

“whoever furnishes any such beverage or alcohol for a person under 21 years of age shall be punished by a fine of not more than $2,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year or both. For the purpose of this section the word furnish” shall mean to knowingly or intentionally supply, give, or provide to or allow a person under 21 years of age except for the children and grandchildren of the person being charged to possess alcoholic beverages on premises or property owned or controlled by the person charged.”

Who Can Be a Social Host?

In MA, a social host is a person who:

  • Provides alcohol to others with no formal exchange of money, as an act of hospitality.
  • Has no professional relationship with the person(s), such employee or employer.
  • Permits alcohol consumption on the premises owned or controlled by the host, such as a home, boat, or even a hotel room.

The social host law expands liability for injuries and accidents caused by alcohol. In addition to the person who actually caused the injuries or damages, the person who served that individual alcohol may also be on the hook. For example, if a man is over-served at a bar, leaves, and kills someone while driving drunk, the man and the bar owner may be liable. If you are facing alcohol-related charges, contact a MA defense lawyer today.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Criminal Defense Lawyers Serving Boston and the Surrounding Areas

If you have been charged with any type of criminal offense, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with crimes for more than 50 years. We will ensure that you understand your rights and options before moving forward. Our attorneys have an impressive track record of getting clients’ charges reduced, or dismissed altogether. If you are facing charges for any type of crime, we will analyze the details of your case and position you for the most favorable outcome. It is our goal to keep you out of jail, and to keep your record clean. Don’t let an honest mistake ruin your life. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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