Published on Nov 23, 2015 by Edgar Snyder

The Underage Drinking Law You Should Know Before Thanksgiving

thanksgiving table

The last guest has left your house after Thanksgiving dinner. There are stacks of dishes to wash, leftovers to stuff in the fridge, and a lot of cleaning to be done, but the food was delicious and everyone had a good time. As far as you're concerned, the night was a success and you can take a few minutes to relax.

Did you know that in Pennsylvania, you might want to wait to breathe that post-holiday sigh of relief? According to the state's Social Host Law, you can be held responsible for some of your guests' actions even after they leave your party.

What is Social Host Law?

Pennsylvania's Social Host Law states that party hosts can be held legally responsible if a minor is served alcohol at your party, leaves intoxicated, and then gets into an accident that results in injury or property damage. This applies even if you didn't personally serve the minor and even if you weren't present at the time of the accident.

It is important to note that this law does not apply to adult guests – they are responsible for their own behavior.

What is a "Social Host"?

The "social host" is the person who is having the party at their home and who has elected to serve alcohol.

If the social host has a liquor license (such as a bartender, caterer, or restaurant), their decision to serve alcohol to already intoxicated guests would fall under Dram Shop Law, which is slightly different than Social Host Law.

Social Host Consequences

Serving alcohol to underage guests is illegal in all 50 states. Even if the minor's 21st birthday is just days away, you can still be held liable under Social Host Law for any accident they're in.

The consequences for violating Social Host Law are serious. If you're found liable, you could face:

  • Fines of $1,000 for the first underage drinker and $2,500 for every additional underage drinker
  • Jail time, depending on the seriousness of the injuries sustained in the accident

How You Can Keep Your Guests Safe

Figuring out how to prevent your guests from driving drunk should be a part of your Thanksgiving planning process. It's best to know how you'll handle intoxicated guests before the party starts so you don't have to scramble for a game plan in the midst of your get-together. Here are a few options you can consider:

  • NEVER serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.
  • Incorporate non-alcoholic beverages or themed mocktails.
  • Stop serving alcohol to guests at least one hour before the party ends.
  • Keep cab company numbers on hand for guests who shouldn't drive.
  • Take advantage of rideshares – Uber and Lyft make it easy to get safely from point A to B if you have trouble getting a cab.
  • Designate a sober driver for every group that comes to your home.
  • Insist that intoxicated guests sleep at your house. You can get a DUI without driving!

Keep the above tips in mind, and we hope that you and your loved ones have a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving.

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