Graduation Party Hosts Beware...Violation of Suffolk's Social Host Law can be a Crime

Having a graduation party? Be aware of your obligations under Suffolk's Social Host Law.

Now that graduation time is once again here, it is important for parents hosting parties to be aware of our obligations under the Suffolk County Social Host Law. This law prohibits the consumption of alcohol by minors at private homes. Specifically, it is unlawful for any person over the age of 18 to knowingly allow the consumption of alcohol by a minor (under 21 ) at their home, or to fail to take reasonable corrective action upon learning that a minor is consuming alcohol at their home. So, if during a party we become aware of a minor drinking alcohol we must make a prompt demand that the minor stop consuming alcohol or request that they leave our home. If the minor will not comply with our requests, we must promptly report the underage drinking to the police or any other person having authority over the minor, such as a parent. The only exception to this law is if the minor's parent is present at the party and has given permission for their child to drink alcohol.

Suffolk's Social Host Law initially went into effect in 2007, however, it was amended in 2011 to "enhance the penalties against adults who knowingly allow minors to consume alcohol in private residences in Suffolk County." The penalties for violating the law were "increased to emphasize the serious nature of the crime and deter parents and other adults from engaging in this dangerous behavior."

The first offense is a violation which carries a fine of up to $500.00.

A second and any subsequent offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00, a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year, or both.

In addition, if someone becomes injured at a party where minors are served alcohol the homeowner may be subject to civil liability and the violation of this law can be used as evidence of negligence in a civil action.

We can still celebrate and have graduation parties to enjoy the achievements of our children; we just need to play it smart and be aware of what is going on during the party. We don't want underage drinking to create a legal problem for ouselves or a tragedy for someone else.

Mark T. Freeley, Esq. - www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com

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Mark Larson June 15, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Not to be too flip about things, but what isn't a crime these days? Tanning, Big Gulps, etc (but not living on the sidewalk and using it as your bathroom -- no, in RI, there is now a "homeless bill of rights" that covers that -- see http://legalinsurrection.com/2012/06/in-rhode-island-the-sidewalks-are-belong-to-the-homeless-and-their-lawyers/ ). A full-time legislature is one of the many causes of our downfall as a self-reliant people.
Matthew Lott June 15, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Hey Mark Freely, have you Ever had to defend a "host" for breaking this "law"...or have you Ever...Ever, heard of this "law" being enforced ? Thanks !
Mark T. Freeley, Esq. June 18, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Hi Matthew, I have never defended anyone in regard to a violation of the Social Host law, and I don't really know how vigorously the law is enforced. However, you can bet that if someone is injured at the party or in an accident afterwards, there will be an investigation and probable enforcement of the law.
Matthew Lott June 18, 2012 at 03:46 PM
And thanks for letting us know and spreading the word.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq. June 18, 2012 at 03:59 PM
My pleasure.


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