The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was enacted in 1984 that set the minimum drinking age at 21. In order to comply with this federal law, states prohibit individuals less than 21 years of age to purchase or publicly possess alcoholic drinks. Despite this law, a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that approximately 9.3 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported drinking alcohol.
Refraining from consuming alcohol should be a personal goal for minors and their parents. However, where a personal sense of responsibility fails, legal accountability can step in. California has enacted social host liability laws that can hold adults responsible for underage drinking parties, regardless of who provided the alcoholic beverages.
Holding Adult Hosts Legally Responsible For Underage Drinking
A “social host” refers to an adult who knowingly or unknowingly hosts a drinking party to underage minors on property the adult owns, leases, or otherwise has control over. This includes:
- Parents away from home when their children throw parties
- Parents who are present but who deny knowledge of minors consuming alcohol on their property
- Owners and/or tenants of rural property
- Owners of vacant property
Social host ordinances were designed to provide communities with a practical tool for holding adults accountable. It is difficult for law enforcement to determine who provided the alcohol when they arrive at the scene of an underage drinking party. However, social host liability ordinances focuse on where the drinking took place, not who provided the alcoholic beverage.
Punishment Under Social Host Ordinances
The social host ordinances allow law enforcement to cite the adult whose property was used to host an underage drinking party. Social host liability can be defined as a criminal act or in terms of civil liability.
If the adult is held criminally liable, he or she will face criminal prosecution. If convicted, the adult can face heavy monetary fines, imprisonment or both. If the adult is held civilly liable, the injured parties can seek monetary damages.
Approximately 150 cities or counties in California use social liability ordinances to address the specific needs and challenges faced in their communities.
Call an Experienced Fresno DUI Attorney
If you or someone you care about has been arrested on the suspicion of drunk driving, it is imperative that you immediately hire an experienced drunk driving attorney to help protect your legal rights and ensure that you have the best defense possible to avoid a drunk driving conviction.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with Fresno drunk driving attorney Gurjit Srai, please call us at (209) 323‐5558 or (559) 449‐ 1447, or complete our online form.