HOSTING A GRADUATION PARTY? BEWARE OF POTENTIAL CRIMINAL, CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE PENALTIES
It’s graduation time. Do you want to host a party for your graduate and their friends believing if alcohol is to be served and consumed you would rather supervise the party? In California, anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited from drinking alcohol or possessing alcohol for personal use. Most counties and municipalities throughout California have social hosting ordinances. San Diego County does in both its incorporated and unincorporated areas. Section 32.303 of San Diego County ordinances, states:
(a) A person who owns or has control of private property and knowingly hosts or allows a party on the property shall take all reasonable steps to prevent the consumption of alcoholic beverages by any minor at the party….It is unlawful for a person to fail to take reasonable steps to prevent a minor from consuming alcoholic beverage at a party the person hosts or allows on private property the person owns or controls…
(b) It is unlawful to allow the party to continue when the person knows or reasonably should know….that a minor has obtained, possesses or is consuming an alcoholic beverage…
(c) This section shall not apply to a parent or legal guardian who provides an alcoholic beverage at a family gathering to a minor under the parent or legal guardian’s care or to any person who provides an alcoholic beverage to a minor as part of a legally protected religious activity.
Criminal misdemeanor penalties of up to 6 months custody and a $1,000.00 fine may apply. Each incident in violation of section 32.303 shall constitute a separate offense. Potential child endangerment penalties, Penal Code 273 felony or misdemeanor, could apply if a minor is injured or rendered harmed by ingesting the alcohol. A social host may be held liable for damages, injury or death. If one of the minors in attendance drives home under the influence and gets in an accident. Administrative penalties apply for the cost of enforcement services such as police, fire, and ambulance responders. This cost applies not only for their salaries but also a percentage of their benefits. Misguided intentions can suddenly become a huge nightmare.
What if you leave your home in control of your 18-year-old minor and they throw the party and you do not know about it? The ordinance applies to your 18 year old or older person in charge of the premises. All the same penalties can apply to them just as if you were hosting the party. It doesn’t matter if you rent or lease the property or have been given use of the property for the party. You go away for the weekend leave your 17-year-old high school senior at home and, unknown to you, he/she invites a few friends over. Word gets out on Facebook and many uninvited minors show up. Many of the uninvited minors bring alcohol with them. It is unlikely you will be in violation of the social host ordinance criminally, but you certainly could be liable for civil damages should someone get hurt as a result of drinking alcohol at the party and your minor allowed the party to continue when many uninvited minors appeared. It is very likely in this scenario that fight(s) will take place without adult supervision present. Serious felony offenses could occur and minors badly injured. You will likely have items stolen from or damaged in your home. We have represented minors from parties both hosted by a parent(s) and from parties where the parents were away. Serious fights have resulted at many of the these parties leading to felony charges, serious injuries, huge restitution costs for injuries, civil suits and homes being damaged and/or trashed.
If you want to have a graduation party, here are a few tips to ensure that you avoid the potential serious consequences?
1. Don’t host a party where underage alcohol drinking is going to take place unless it is strictly a family gathering and you are closely supervising the minors in attendance;
2. Don’t leave your teenager alone in your home while you go away without having a responsible adult checking on them for unauthorized parties or gatherings at your home.
3. Don’t permit alcohol or under the influence substances to be available to your minor or their friends. If necessary, lock them up or remove them if you suspect unauthorized use.