Most youths who obtain alcohol do not get it from irresponsible retailers or by using fake identification. The majority of alcohol consumed by minors is provided by consenting adults, often by parents and parents of friends. Adults must understand the risks of providing alcohol to minors. Social host laws, a growing trend throughout California, hold adults responsible when minors consume alcoholic beverages on their property.
The ordinances sometimes referred to as “teen party ordinances” or “social responsibility ordinances”, are a response to the far-reaching possible consequences of underage drinking, including California DUI accidents and crashes, violence and sexual assault, and alcohol poisoning and dependency. Thousands of 911 calls are generated every year due to underage drinking parties. Social host liability laws are enacted to deter underage drinking parties by holding parents and other adults criminally and financially responsible for the consequences.
Facts about Underage Drinking
The website socialhost.org dispels the myth that alcohol is relatively harmless for minors compared to illegal drugs. In comparison to young people who wait to drink until they are 21, minors who drink before age 15 are 12 times more likely to suffer an unintentional injury while intoxicated. Additionally, youth are 10 times more likely to be involved in a physical fight while intoxicated, and 7 times more likely to be involved in a car crash while intoxicated.
Underage alcohol consumption is also linked to physical violence, depression, suicide, poor performance in school, unwanted pregnancy, and risky sexual behavior. Drinking alcohol early is also associated with greater problems with alcohol in adulthood.
Underage Drunk Driving is a Serious Problem.
Every death and every major injury in an alcohol-related accident is a tragic reminder of the consequences of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is especially dangerous for teenagers. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), of all the dangers teenagers face, underage drinking is one of the worst. It does not matter whether teenagers are drinking, wine, beer, hard alcohol, malt beverages, or other liquor; alcohol is especially dangerous for teens.
Teenagers who consume alcohol, compared to other teens who do not, are more likely to get pregnant, drop out of school, be sexually assaulted, take their own life through suicide, become an alcoholic later in life, or die in a car accident.
Teenage Drunk Driver Statistics
According to the CDC, although teens are less likely than adults to drive after drinking, those who do are more likely to be involved in a collision. More than half of all DUI accidents involving teenage drunk drivers occur on weekends. The risk of being involved in a crash goes up at night and when other passengers are also in the car. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report to Congress in July 2018, car accidents are the leading cause of death for 15-20 year-olds.
In 2016, about 13% of all drivers involved in fatal car accidents were between 15 and 20 years old. This age group represents only 6.3% of all licensed drivers. In 2006, 3,490 drivers (only drivers, not passengers) between the ages of 15 and 20 were killed in car accidents, and about 272,000 were injured. Statistically, teenagers are less likely to wear seat belts and more likely to speed. Teenagers also use cell phones, iPods, and other portable devices more than adults. According to the NHTSA, young drivers are especially vulnerable to accidents and injury when driving with other teenage passengers, driving at night, and driving after drinking alcohol.
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The source of alcohol consumed prior to a DUI accident is an important question in any accident involving an underage drunk driver. If your son or daughter was injured or killed in an accident because another adult allowed your child to consume alcohol, or allowed the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident that killed your child to consume alcohol, you may have legal rights under social host liability.
We are saddened by the frequency of alcohol-related accidents caused by underage drunk drivers. But we are also appalled by the lack of care of other adults, who do nothing to prevent alcohol consumption by minors, or teens getting into a vehicle with a drunk teen driver. Our attorneys are concerned with helping victims hold negligent parties accountable, whether it is another parent or adult, or a bar, tavern, or restaurant that irresponsibly provided alcohol to minors.
Many cities and counties have social host ordinances. In San Diego County, the first social host ordinance was introduced in the fall of 2002 in the city of Poway. Since then, many other parts of San Diego County adopted social responsibility ordinances, including Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista, and Carlsbad, as well as Poway, Encinitas, La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee, the City of San Diego, and the unincorporated areas of San Diego County.
The laws vary from city to city, with varying penalties and fines. It is important to understand though, that in addition to fine and possible community service, parents, property owners, and other hosts may be held civilly liable for the injuries and deaths caused by underage drinkers. Typically, adults may be held responsible regardless of whether they are home during the party or not. A party is generally considered any gathering of three or more persons assembling for a social occasion or social activity.
Know Your Legal Responsibilities
Planning on hosting a party this Memorial Day weekend? If you are going to be a host, remember that serving alcohol to your guests can pose inherent safety risks as well as criminal liability.
Some of the highest incidents of DWI occur between the weekends of Memorial Day and Labor Day. There are several things you can do as a host and guest to prevent you and your loved ones from getting a DWI or causing an accident that injures someone else.
- Plan ahead. Choose a designated driver or call a taxi cab. Uber is another great and convenient option to avoid driving.
- Limit your number of drinks. Everyone processes alcohol differently and heat and dehydration may cause you to drink faster. Remember that even if you are “buzzed” you can still be charged with DWI.
- If you are a party guest or host and notice someone who has had too much to drink, you are in the crucial position of making sure they get home safely.
If you are serving alcohol, you have even more responsibility. Even if you didn’t know your guest was under 21, you may be subject to criminal prosecution for serving alcohol to a minor.
The best advice is to use common sense and don’t let your party guests get out of control.