Underage Drinking

Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties

Laws that impose liability against individuals (social hosts) responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease, or otherwise control.

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About This Policy: Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties

This policy topic is included in the APIS Highlight on Underage Drinking section. The Highlight's Overview of Underage Drinking Policy in the United States provides additional context that may be helpful in understanding this policy topic. State-by-State summaries of eleven underage drinking policy topics are available in the State Profiles of Underage Drinking Laws section. Maps and charts for all of these policy topics are collected on a single page to provide a more comprehensive graphical overview of underage policies.

(Period Covered: 1/1/1998 through 1/1/2020)

This policy topic covers laws that impose liability against individuals (social hosts) responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease, or otherwise control.

Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties addresses laws that establish State-imposed liability against individuals (social hosts) responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease, or otherwise control. These laws often are closely linked to laws prohibiting furnishing alcohol to minors, although laws establishing State-imposed liability for hosting underage drinking parties may apply without regard to who furnishes the alcohol. Hosts who allow underage drinking on their property as well as supply the alcohol consumed or possessed by the minors may be in violation of two distinct laws: furnishing alcohol to a minor and allowing underage drinking to occur on property they control. APIS provides additional information on laws pertaining to furnishing alcohol to minors in the Furnishing Alcohol to Minors policy topic.

The primary purpose of laws that establish State-imposed liability for hosting underage drinking parties is to deter underage drinking parties. Although research on the topic is limited, what is available suggests that parties are high risk settings for binge drinking and associated alcohol problems. Very young drinkers are often introduced to heavy drinking behaviors at these events (National Research Council Institute of Medicine, 2003).[1] Law enforcement officials report that, in many cases, underage drinking parties occur on private property, but the adult responsible for the property is not present or cannot be shown to have furnished the alcohol. Statutes that establish State-imposed liability for social hosts address this issue by providing a legal basis for holding adults responsible for parties that occur on their property whether or not they provided the alcohol to minors.

Two general types of liability may apply to hosting underage drinking parties: State-imposed liability and private party civil liability. State-imposed liability involves a statutory prohibition that is enforced by the State, generally through criminal proceedings that can lead to sanctions such as fines or imprisonment. Private party civil liability involves an action by a private party seeking monetary damages for injuries that result from permitting underage drinking on the host's premises. Although related, these two forms of liability are quite distinct. For example, a social host may allow a minor to drink alcohol after which the minor causes a motor vehicle crash that injures an innocent third party. In this situation, the social host may be prosecuted by the State under a criminal statute and face a fine or imprisonment for the criminal violation. In a State that provides for private party civil liability, the injured third party could also sue the host for monetary damages associated with the motor vehicle crash. State-imposed liability is established by statute. Private party civil liability can be imposed either by statute or by a court using common law negligence principles. This policy topic addresses State-imposed liability for hosting underage drinking parties.

  1. National Research Council Institute of Medicine. Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 2003.

Explanatory Notes and Limitations Specifically Applicable to Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties

  1. Jurisdictions have enacted various provisions focusing on the furnishing and provision of alcohol to minors. See Furnishing Alcohol to Minors. For purposes of Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties, APIS does not include provisions that prohibit persons from "aiding," "assisting," "abetting," or "knowingly enabling" a minor's possession or consumption of alcohol, or other provisions that relate generally to the furnishing of alcohol to a minor. Rather, the provisions collected under Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties are those that prohibit persons from allowing or permitting underage possession or consumption on property within the person's ownership or control, without regard to whether the person furnished alcohol to minors.
  2. Many jurisdictions have other provisions that may pertain to the actions of persons with regard to underage drinking. These provisions, although outside the scope of APIS, could potentially be used by law enforcement officials to provide State-imposed liability against a social host. This analysis does not consider or include the following types of provisions:
    • general criminal statutes dealing with aiding or abetting alcohol possession or consumption by minors;
    • statutes that declare, as a "public nuisance," maintaining a building or place where alcoholic beverages are manufactured, stored, transported, sold, or otherwise dispensed in violation of law;
    • provisions dealing with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, child endangerment, or child abuse and neglect;
    • provisions that may criminalize allowing a minor under an individual's supervision to drink alcohol, but without reference to any property under the individual's ownership or control; and
    • provisions that pertain exclusively to persons in control of licensed premises.
  3. Most jurisdictions do not specify a minimum number of guests at a gathering for a State-imposed liability statute to apply. Provisions that specify a minimum number are described in the Row Notes or Jurisdiction Notes.
  4. There is considerable variation across jurisdictions regarding the description of the social host's relationship to the property. Social hosts may have legal possession of property; control of property; ownership or control of property; or be the owner or occupant of property. APIS does not address these distinctions.
  5. In some jurisdictions, State-imposed liability statutes apply only to social hosts above a certain age. APIS does not document the specific age provisions.
  6. In some jurisdictions, State-imposed liability provisions apply only if the minors who are possessing or consuming alcohol are under a certain age less than 21. Such conditions are described in the Row Notes or Jurisdiction Notes.
  7. Some States have specific provisions relating to State-imposed liability for social hosts when underage drinking is limited to beverages containing less than one-half of one percent alcohol. APIS does not document provisions that are limited to such beverages.

Explanatory Notes and Limitations Applicable to All APIS Policy Topics

  1. State law may permit local jurisdictions to impose requirements in addition to those mandated by State law. Alternatively, State law may prohibit local legislation on this topic, thereby preempting local powers. For more information on the preemption doctrine, see the About Alcohol Policy page. APIS does not document policies established by local governments.
  2. In addition to statutes and regulations, judicial decisions (case law) also may affect alcohol-related policies. APIS does not review case law except to determine whether judicial decisions have invalidated statutes or regulations that would otherwise affect the data presented in the comparison tables.
  3. APIS reviews published administrative regulations. However, administrative decisions or directives that are not included in a State's published regulatory codes may have an impact on implementation. This possibility has not been addressed by the APIS research.
  4. Statutes and regulations cited in tables on this policy topic may have been amended or repealed after the specific date or time period specified by the site user's search criteria.
  5. Policy changes in APIS are presented as of the date these changes take effect as law.  Users should be aware that in some situations there may be a delay between the effective date of a law and the time a corresponding policy change occurs in practice.  Because APIS research is based entirely on primary legal source materials (codified statutes and regulations and, on rare occasions, published court opinions), APIS is unable to accurately determine when policy changes may appear in practice.
  6. If a conflict exists between a statute and a regulation addressing the same legal issue, APIS coding relies on the statute.
  7. A comprehensive understanding of the data presented in the comparison tables for this policy topic requires examination of the applicable Row Notes and Jurisdiction Notes, which can be accessed from the body of the table via links in the Jurisdiction column.

(Policies in effect on: 1/1/2020) 

Our research identified no relevant Federal statutes or regulations pertaining to Prohibitions Against  Hosting Underage Drinking Parties.

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