Almost every teen in New Jersey is faced with a situation involving underage drinking. Many people believe it is a part of growing up, and parties involving underage drinking are common throughout New Jersey. However, it is very easy for one of these parties to grow out of control and someone to get seriously hurt. In these circumstances, who is responsible for the injuries or alcohol-induced illness sustained by the minor? In many cases, the parents of the teen hosting the party are the ones found responsible.
Under social host liability laws, parents are responsible for underage drinking in their homes. If a parent supplies a minor with alcohol, a crime is committed and the parent could be responsible for any injuries which the minor causes or sustains. N.J.S.A 2C:33-17 prohibits anyone from serving alcohol to minors or making their homes available for underage drinking. Both of these offenses are disorderly persons offenses, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, as well as any damages awarded in a lawsuit. Parents who supply their children with alcohol are subject to civil and criminal charges.
If a parent has no knowledge of underage consumption in their home, they are not liable. For example, if parents were asleep and their child had guests over to drink without the parents' knowledge, the parents are not liable for any alcohol related injuries or conditions sustained by the minors.
However, this does not always apply when a parent leaves the home in the care of someone else. If the child is left without proper supervision, such as with another person under the age of 21, the parents could be held accountable for any alcohol related injuries or conditions sustained by the minors because they should have known drinking was likely to occur. On the other hand, if a parent leaves a home with no alcohol in it, has no knowledge of alcohol being present in his home, or did not see anyone drinking in his home, he would have no way of knowing that underage drinking was happening in his home. Thus, he is not held liable for any damages or injuries that may ensue.
Many parents believe that they should allow their teen to drink at home because that is the safest place for a minor to drink. However, serious consequences can arise if a minor sustained injuries or died after attending a party hosted by a parent, including jail time if the situation is serious enough. If you are facing charges arising from such a situation or have any questions, please contact LS&P Lawyers. We are available 24/7 for consultation and have an experienced team of NJ criminal lawyers willing to meet your legal needs.