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.

Policy Topics

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Variables: Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties

  1. Specific to Underage Parties:
    • "Specific" statutes explicitly address underage drinking parties, by making reference to the words "party," "gathering," "open house," "hosting" and similar terms in the language of the provision with respect to property owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the social host.  "General" statutes prohibit individuals from allowing or permitting underage drinking on their properties generally, without reference to parties, gatherings or some similar term. "General" laws have a broader scope than underage drinking parties (e.g., they may also prohibit adults from allowing minors to consume alcohol in settings other than the adult's home), but are applicable to the underage drinking party context.
  2. Action by Underage Guests:
    • This variable identifies the specific underlying activity by underage guests that will trigger a violation under a statute establishing State-imposed liability for hosting underage drinking parties.  APIS codes the following actions for this variable:
      • Possession
      • Consumption
      • Intention (to possess or consume)
    • If more than one action is listed, any one of them is sufficient to establish a violation.
  3. Property Type:
    • Jurisdictions vary regarding the types of property covered by statutes that establish State-imposed liability for hosting underage drinking parties.
      • Residence: A residence owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the social host
      • Outdoor: Outdoor property owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the social host
      • Other: Other property, which may include a shed, garage, or other outbuilding owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the social host, or else a hotel or motel room, campground, or other public site
  4. Knowledge Standard:
    • The statutes reviewed for this policy topic set varying knowledge standards, or thresholds, for hosts' knowledge or actions regarding an underage drinking party on property they control (“the party”). In a court case against a social host accused of violating the law of the State, the prosecution must present sufficient evidence to meet this "knowledge standard" in order to establish a violation. The more demanding the standard in terms of the evidence required, the lower the likelihood of a successful prosecution. For coding, APIS uses the categories below. These categories appear in the relevant State statutes, and have definitions derived from basic concepts of criminal law. The categories are ranked by the level of evidence required, from most demanding to least demanding:
      • Overt Act - the host must have actual knowledge of specific aspects of the party, and must commit an act that contributes to its occurrence.
      • Knowledge - the host must have actual knowledge of specific aspects of the party; no action is required.
      • Recklessness - the host may not have acted with actual knowledge of the party, but must act with intentional disregard for the probable consequences of his or her actions.
      • Criminal Negligence - the host fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that unlawful circumstances associated with the party exist.
      • Negligence - the host knew or should have known of the event's occurrence (in legal terminology this is referred to as "constructive knowledge").
    • For statutes that do not explicitly specify the knowledge standard required for a social host offense, wording such as "permit an underage person to consume alcohol on property he controls" has been interpreted to require at least negligence (constructive knowledge) in accordance with standard legal interpretation.For statutes that specify more than one level of knowledge, APIS codes to the lowest or least demanding of such levels. Statutes that condition liability on a social host having actual knowledge of an underage party's existence generally do not specify precisely which aspects of the party must be known (e.g., whether a party is taking place, whether participants are underage, or whether alcohol is served). These specific aspects vary from State to State, as delineated in the State statutes.
  5. Preventive Action Negates Violation:
    • In some jurisdictions, preventive action by the social host may negate State-imposed liability.  For these jurisdictions, a row note or jurisdiction note specifies whether preventive action constitutes an affirmative defense or whether absence of preventive action is an element of the offense.  (An affirmative defense must be established by a defendant in order to avoid liability; an element of the offense is something the prosecution must prove in order to establish the defendant's guilt.)   A checkmark in this column indicates that preventive action by the social host can negate State-imposed liability.
  6. Exceptions to Underage Guest Requirement (Exceptions):
    • Jurisdictions have varying exceptions in their statutes for family members or others, or for other uses or settings involving the handling of alcoholic beverages.  APIS codes the following exceptions to the Underage Guest requirement:
      • Family members
      • Residents or members of same household