Published on May 30, 2014 by Edgar Snyder

The Dangers of Hosting a Graduation Party

underage drinking

Consider the Consequences Before Serving Alcohol at Your Child's Graduation Bash

As the end of the school year approaches, many parents are gearing up to host the ultimate graduation party for their high school senior and all of their friends and family. With so many graduation get-togethers happening all at once, parents may feel pressure to throw a bash that stands out from all the rest. Some adults may not realize that if they plan on serving alcohol to party guests, there can be devastating consequences, which could cause their graduation celebration to stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Under Pennsylvania common law, adults who serve alcohol at private functions are "social hosts." Although the law holds that adults (those 21+) are responsible for the consequences of their own drinking, if a social host serves alcohol to a minor, they can be held legally responsible for the consequences of the underage person's drinking.

If an underage party guest receives a citation for underage drinking or a DUI, the person who provided them with alcohol could also face charges.

In PA, a person who furnishes alcohol to a minor commits a third degree misdemeanor. This means that if an adult party host provides minors with alcohol, the host could face a $1,000 fine and possible jail time at the very least. Under this law, a first violation requires a minimum fine of $1,000. For subsequent violations, the minimum fine is $2,500. Therefore, if multiple minors from the same party are cited, the host would have to pay a $2,500 fine for each additional underage guest who received a citation.

If an adult host provides alcohol to a minor and that minor injures or kills someone else because of intoxication, the host can be held responsible.

Party hosts can be held responsible for the damage caused by intoxicated, underage guests. If the minor in question is involved in a car accident after leaving the party and causes damage to another person or to their vehicle, the social host may be liable to pay money damages to the injured person.

If an adult host provides alcohol to a minor and that minor is injured or killed because of intoxication, the host can be held responsible.

Social hosts can face both criminal and civil charges. In a situation like this, the host of the party may be responsible for paying the medical bills and/or repair costs for the injured guest's vehicle (in the event of an auto accident). Or, if the underage guest is killed due to intoxication after leaving the party, the host can face serious criminal charges.

What if the party host was not aware that minors were drinking?

The following circumstances must be present in order for a social host to be liable for the injury and damage caused by an intoxicated underage guest:

  • The host was aware, or should have been aware, that the guest who caused the injury/damage was drunk.
  • The host knew that the guest who caused the injury/damage would be driving after they left the party.

Social Host Law applies even if the host should have been aware that the guest who caused the injury/damage was intoxicated. Essentially, this means that even if you didn't see the underage guest drinking, you can be held legally responsible for the consequences of their drinking.

While most individuals know that serving alcohol to a minor is illegal, social hosts have a moral obligation to make sure none of their guests drink and drive. This graduation season, please consider all the risks and dangers involved in hosting a party, before it's too late.

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