Weekend night gatherings of underage kids in homes go on all over America. As a parent, you can unintentionally grab the title of “social host” and be in need of the best criminal defense attorney you can find in the blink of an eye. A social host is an individual or business who serves alcohol in a social setting, whether knowingly or not. You are not only prohibited from providing alcohol to people under the age of 21, but you may end up being the responsible party if a minor leaves your home intoxicated and kills or injures someone. Note that a host is only liable to a third party when the injury is caused by a guest under 21 years old. A social host can be responsible for injuries suffered by an intoxicated underage drinker if the injuries occurred as a result of the intoxication, whether on or off the host premises. A host could be held liable even where the kid essentially caused their own injury.
Under Ohio law, children under the age of 21 may drink alcoholic beverages while under the supervision of their parents. This means one parent (or legal guardian) must give consent and be physically present while the child consumes alcohol. Therefore, in addition to permitting supervised drinking in a private residence, Ohio law also allows parents to order alcoholic beverages for children at restaurants or bars — as long as the parents remain with the children while the drinks are consumed. Though it is legal for businesses to sell alcohol to parents (knowing the parents will give the drinks to their children), many restaurants choose to limit their liability by refusing to sell alcohol intended for underage children or limiting the hours that minors may be present on the premises.
Even if, as parents, you take every precaution to make sure alcohol is not brought into your home, you can still be held responsible, if some of the guests slip in with alcohol hidden. Kids are slick and they often make mistakes. The excuse, “I didn’t have any idea there was drinking going on under my roof” doesn’t work as easily as it used to. A criminal defense attorney will need to be called. Under current Ohio law, prosecutors and law enforcement agents must prove that an adult “knowingly” provided alcohol to underage drinkers or “knowingly” allowed drinking on their premises.
The Bottom Line: If you are a parent who lets their college student drink at home with his friends it can get you into a lot of trouble. If their parents are not at your home with them, you will be responsible for permitting the drinking and any trouble that may occur later on while under the influence. The best solution if you think there might be drinking in your home, is to take the keys away from all drivers. Call taxis, or let the child sleep over. Kids make mistakes. They don’t have the wisdom or emotional maturity to make good decisions all the time. Despite good parenting, mistakes happen that lead to charges being filed. Good kids make bad decisions all the time and if you are a parent and find yourself in this situation the best thing to do is reach out to a criminal defense attorney, immediately.
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