Can Minors Attend a Party If Alcohol Is Present?
You are at a party with your adult friends, having a good time. You and your friends are consuming alcohol, as you are legally able to do, when you notice that a person who looks a little too young to drink walks through the front door. Do you have to stop drinking? Do you have to ask the new guest to leave?
Adults who are behaving in a legal manner are not expected to stop enjoying themselves if minors are present or arrive at the gathering. That said, it is typically a wise idea to have at least one sober adult present if there is alcohol being served in the presence of those not legally permitted to drink. A sober adult can ensure that minors are not sneaking drinks and not being served by a party guest.
In general, it is not illegal for minors to be at parties where alcohol is being served, nor is it illegal for adults to consumer alcohol in the presence of minors. However, there are laws that prohibit certain actions when a minor is at any gathering in which alcohol is being served. If the minor is not consuming alcohol, there is generally no issue. If, on the other hand, the minor starts drinking, several laws may come into play.
Persons under the age of 21 are not permitted to drink alcohol in most states. In some states, persons 18 and over may consume alcohol in their own home and with their legal guardians. When a minor attends a gathering and consumes alcohol, they can be charged with the crime of illegal consumption if caught.
There is an exception in Georgia to illegal consumption by a minor. If that person is 18 years or older but under the legal drinking age, they may consume alcohol purchased by a parent or guardian, in the presence of the parent or guardian, and in the home of the parent or guardian. All three of those conditions must be met in order for someone between the ages of 18 and 20 to consume alcohol legally.
There is a difference between minors attending a party where alcohol is present, and minors being served alcohol at a party. Any adult who is found to have been serving or otherwise furnishing alcohol to minors can find themselves in legal trouble.
Dram shop laws cover bartenders and wait staff at establishments that supply or sell alcohol. These laws are typically more strict than those that concern adults furnishing alcohol at a private party. A person in a public establishment that knowingly provides alcohol to a minor can be charged with a crime.
If you host a party at your home, you are held liable for your actions under the premise of social liability. In other words, you owe a certain duty to your guests and anyone permitted to be on your property. One of those responsibilities is to ensure that no minor consumes alcohol. It doesn’t matter if the child makes it home safely, you are still acting illegally if you knowingly served or allowed the minor to consume alcoholic beverages.
In most cases, supplying alcohol to a minor will result in a misdemeanor charge. You may face up to a year in a local jail, fines of no more than $1,000 and court costs. You may also be sentenced to probation.
You could be charged with a felony if you supplied alcohol to a minor who then went on to cause an accident that resulted in the serious injury or death of another person. If you are convicted of a felony, you could spend five or more years in prison and/or be ordered to pay fines up to and in excess of $50,000.
Responsibility for Intoxicated Minors
Say that a minor is drinking alcohol at a party where adults are present. You are one of those adults, but you did not serve the minor any alcohol. You could still find yourself answering to authorities if the minor leaves the gathering and gets into trouble.
If found to be intoxicated, the minor will be asked where they consumed alcohol and who was present. You could find yourself being questioned by the police as to why you did not stop the child from drinking. Your neglect to stop a minor from consuming alcohol could have you charged with “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”
If that minor left the party and caused an accident or in some way contributed to the injury of another person, you could be in even more legal trouble. If it can be proven that you knew the minor was intoxicated and allowed them to leave the premises, you could be held personally liable for any injuries sustained by the innocent party. This means that you could be paying for medical bills, lost wages and more.
In most cases, a person can consume alcohol in the presence of minors without getting into trouble. Crimes are not committed until the minors in attendance begin consuming alcohol themselves.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid parties where alcohol and minors are both present. If you hold a party at your home where alcohol is present, it is up to you as the host to make sure no minors partake.
Contact a DeKalb County Criminal Lawyer Today
If you find yourself charged with driving under the influence in Atlanta or the surrounding area or are charged with other alcohol-related crimes, reach out to the experienced team at Hawkins Spizman Fortas. Our attorneys will review the details of your arrest and charges and advise you of your legal options. Call now to schedule your appointment for a free case evaluation with a DeKalb County DUI lawyer.