Understanding the Social Host Law…
The greatest influence on young people’s decisions to begin drinking is the world they live in, which includes their families, friends, schools, the larger community, and society as a whole. Unfortunately, some parents take the following approach…
“The kids are going to drink anyway so why don’t we provide a place in our home for them where they can be supervised?”
This approach may subject both parent and child to criminal penalties and civil liability.
While parents who adopt this approach think that they will be able to supervise a teenage party with alcohol, they cannot predict situations that may develop if a minor has been drinking in their home. If teenage alcohol consumption has taken place at a supervised party, and the teenagers have left the home, the “social host’s” responsibility does not end.
Civil liability involves a lawsuit by a private party (the injured or estate of a deceased person) seeking monetary compensation for injuries suffered due to underage drinking on a social host’s property or premises he/she controls.
Civil actions address private rights.
- An aggrieved person may seek to recover monetary damages as compensation for injuries caused by another. A person injured as a result of underage drinking may attempt to hold a social host responsible for his injuries.
- The injured person may claim that the negligence of the host caused his injuries. In states with a social host law, like Massachusetts, a violation of the law may be some evidence to establish negligence and civil responsibility.
- Civil actions involving catastrophic injury or death can result in large judgments. A jury in Massachusetts has assessed more than $8 million in damages against the intoxicated underage driver of an automobile, and the liquor store that sold the beer that the driver consumed.
- MGL Chapter 119 § 63 – Contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Penalty: Maximum 1 year in jail and/or $500 fine.
- MGL Chapter 138 § 34 – Sale, delivery, furnishing alcohol to person under 21 years old.
Penalty: Maximum 1 year in jail and/or $2,000 fine.
- MGL Chapter 138 § 34A- Minors: purchase or attempt to purchase alcoholic beverage
Penalty: $300.00 fine, License suspended for 180 days.
- MGL Chapter 138 § 34C- Minor in possession/transports/carries alcoholic beverages.
Penalty: First offense: Maximum $50 fine
Second and subsequent offense: Maximum $150 fine, License suspended for 90 days.
MINORS OPERATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (OUI):
- MGL Chapter 90 § 24- Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol. (OUI)
Penalty: Ranges from first offense/alcohol program and license suspension up to 5 years in prison for a 5th offense.
* Under 21 – Refusal or a BT of .02 or greater. Immediate 180 day license loss.
* Age 18-21 – 1st offense with BAC .20 or greater. 14 Day Inpatient Program REQUIRED
MINORS CAUSING INJURY OR DEATH:
- MGL Chapter 90 § 24G – OUI motor vehicle homicide
Penalty: Up to 15 years in prison, 1 year mandatory, and up to $5,000 fine. 15 year license suspension for first offense.
- MGL Chapter 90 § 24L – OUI serious bodily injury
Penalty: Up to 10 years in prison and up to $5,000 fine. 2 year license loss.
- MGL Chapter 265 § 13½ – Manslaughter by motor vehicle
Penalty: Up to 20 years in prison, 5 years mandatory jail sentence. Up to $25,000 fine. License loss 15 years to life.
*Data above courtesy of the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office. https://plymouthda.com/prevention/school-based-programs/social-host-liability/
To read the Social Host Law as written by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Legislature, Chapter 39, Section 34, please CLICK HERE.