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Massachusetts Social Host Liability Laws

By DiBella Law Offices on December 15, 2015

The holiday season from Halloween to New Year’s offers young adults and teenagers plenty of opportunity to celebrate and party with friends. All too often alcohol is served at these underage parties and these young adults and teenagers find themselves in precarious situations. Unfortunately, many times the host of these parties are adults who are unaware of the consequences and liability they have assumed by sponsoring such an event.

A variety of programs exist to cut down on the number of teenagers who are operating under the influence of alcohol. The U.S. Centers for Disease control notes that drivers under the age of 21 who are under the influence are in fatal vehicle collisions three times more often than older drivers are. In Massachusetts, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates that there were 118 drunk driving fatalities (defined as driving having a 0.08 blood alcohol count or higher) in the last year for which statistics are available. Although that is more than 8% less than the previous year, it still constitutes more than one-third of all traffic-related deaths.

Parents Who Host Lose the Most

Although many teenagers and young adults drink and drive, an innovative Massachusetts campaign aims to stop teenagers drinking in parties at homes and then driving home.

Project Sticker Shock, based in Falmouth, places stickers in liquor stores warning parents about the dangers of letting their teenagers—and their friends—drink at home. The stickers are put on bags and read “Parents Who Host Lose the Most – Don’t be a Party to Underage Drinking. It’s Against the Law.” The goal is not only to cut down on underage drinking in homes, but to provide an occasion for conversations about the perils of driving and drinking.

The program also shines an important light on the fact that adults who let teenagers drink at home are breaking the law. In Massachusetts, it is illegal to serve alcohol to people under 21 and to let them drink it on any property you control. Penalties are steep: parents or other adults who violate the law can be fined as much as $2,000, be sentenced to up to a year in jail, or both.

In addition, under social host liability laws, parents are responsible if people under 21 drink in their home. They can be liable in both civil and criminal court if an underage driver injures someone or causes damage. They are not liable only if they were unaware or could not have reasonably known that alcohol was being consumed by minors on their premises.

If you’ve been charged with a Social Host crime, call DiBella Law Office to schedule your consultation and discuss your case with an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney.

Posted in: Criminal Defense