Many parents have children who are upper classmen in high school or in their first years of college. It’s not uncommon for these older teens or young adults to ask their parents to host a house party for their under-age friends. Regardless of the reason for the party, at some point, there is a request to allow minors to consume alcoholic beverages.
In some cases, parents feel that they look “cool” or are “socially accepted” by their child and their friends. Other parents reason that, “They’re going to do it anyway. They might as well do it in my home, where I can control it.” Another common belief is that, if there are adults present, it’s not a party, it’s just a social gathering.
We believe that the costs associated with hiring a lawyer shouldn’t prevent any house party injury victim from obtaining sound legal counsel. Because of this, our law firm handles all house party liability claims on a contingency fee basis. This means there are no out of pocket expenses and you only owe attorney’s fees if we settle your claim or win a favorable verdict in court.
Here’s the reality, any house party, social gathering or event in your home, that includes knowingly serving alcohol or drugs to anyone under the age of 21 can subject the adult host to both criminal and civil charges. This includes parties that are designated as “bring your own bottle” or BYOB. The host doesn’t have to purchase or serve the alcohol or drugs to be held criminally liable.
According to Florida Statute 856.015 – Open House Parties, if a party host meets these five conditions, they have committed a second-degree misdemeanor:
Criminal penalties for a first-time offense of violating the Open House Parties statute, where there were no physical injuries to minors, can carry a penalty of a $500.00 fine and up to 60 days in jail. For a second offense, the host could face a $1,000.00 fine and up to one year in prison.
Violating the Open House Parties statute, where physical injuries or death to minors occurred or the minors caused physical injuries or death, is considered a first degree misdemeanor. The penalty can be a $1,000.00 fine and up to one year in prison, regardless if it’s a first-time offense.
Outside of criminal penalties, the adult host who knowingly allowed minors to consume drugs or alcohol can be held financially responsible in civil court as well.
Under Florida premises liability laws, Sarasota home owners who create and maintain a hazardous condition on their property and fail to reasonably correct the hazard or warn of its existence can be held financially liable for the damages caused by the hazard.
Under common legal standards, serving alcohol to minors at a house party would be considered creating a hazardous condition. Not only for the minors themselves, but for others as well.
If a minor leaves the party while impaired, the host of the party could be held liable for any personal injury or wrongful death to the minor or any person(s) injured or killed through the minor’s actions.
Under Florida’s Underage Drinking Law, there is no provision that gives parents, legal guardians or other adults the legal authority that allows their underage child to possess alcoholic beverages for personal consumption. The law is very specific. Simply the possession of alcohol by a minor, outside of the course of lawful employment, is considered a crime, even for the parents. The minor does not have to drink the alcohol to be in violation of the Underage Drinking Law, just in possession of it.
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