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Published on Dec 21, 2011 by Edgar Snyder

How Your Holiday Party Could Land You in Jail

Social Host Infographic

Imagine a frightening late-night knock at the door from your local police. What if the officer came to tell you that one of your holiday party guests was in an accident on their way home, and you're being held responsible? While it may seem unlikely, it could happen under Pennsylvania's social host law.

In Pennsylvania, a "social host" is anyone who hosts a holiday party at home and serves alcohol to their guests. Adults are responsible for how much alcohol they drink. But what many people don't realize is that if you know someone underage is given alcohol at your house and then leaves intoxicated, you could be held responsible if they end up behind the wheel and in an accident.

This very thing happened when a Westmoreland County mother was charged with providing alcohol to three teenagers at her son's graduation party. They were then involved in a deadly crash. This tragedy is an unfortunate example of what can happen when you aren't a responsible social host.

Too often people are guilty of allowing their underage party attendees to drink. But if they end up in a car accident after leaving, the host could face fines of $2,500 for the first underage child or teenager and $1,000 for every other. Some social hosts could even have to serve jail time, depending on the seriousness of the injuries sustained in the car accident. While adults are responsible for themselves, party hosts have a moral obligation to make sure none of their guests drink and drive.

This holiday season, please use common sense and don't be reckless when serving alcohol to your guests. Here are a few tips to keep everyone safe during your holiday celebrations:

  • Serve non-alcoholic beverages or Holiday "Mocktails" for designated drivers and younger guests.
  • Stop serving alcohol after a couple of hours and serve non-alcoholic beverages instead.
  • Limit your guest list to people you know and those who act and drink responsibly.
  • Hire a bartender instead of having guests serve themselves. Not only are they trained in recognizing signs of intoxication, but they are also very good at identifying underage drinkers.
  • Consider hosting a party at a bar or restaurant. This places responsibility on trained servers rather than you.
  • Keep cab company numbers by your phone for guests who shouldn't drive.
  • Insist guests sleep at your home if they appear intoxicated.
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