Typically, parents who decide to throw underage alcohol parties usually do so for two reasons: either to be “cool” and fit in with their children and their peers or to keep their kids and others from drinking and driving. Tina Aaron, coordinator of the Walker County Community in Action Coalition, is stressing the importance of following the law when hosting any teen parties.
“Parents and other hosts need to be familiar with Alabama law and make responsible decisions,” Aaron said. “There is also the social aspect that ‘hosting’ gives the impression of condoning underage drinking and low-perceived risk to all involved.”
There are three violations defined under the state law in Alabama regarding underage alcohol parties:
•an adult has authorized the party at the residence and is in attendance.
•an adult knows that an underage person possesses or is using an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance.
•an adult fails to take reasonable action to prevent an underage person from possessing or using an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance.
Walker County’s chief juvenile probation officer, Mark Jarvis, notes that there are serious consequences for parents who choose to host such parties for their kids.
“This is a serious offense. Adults that are charged with hosting can wind up in jail for up to six months with a [maximum] $1,000 fine,” Jarvis said. “They can also be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”
Some parents simply assume that teenagers are going to drink anyway, so at the parties they will take the kids’ car keys thinking they are keeping them safe; however, it is still an illegal act. Adults may even be sued if an accident occurs where someone is injured by an intoxicated guest who was given alcoholic beverages at a hosted party.
Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center prevention specialist April Dunn agrees with Aaron, saying it is critical that parents and adults know the consequences of the law.
“I think it is really important that parents and other adults educate themselves as to what the law says about hosting underage drinking parties,” Dunn said. “Just because it is graduation night doesn’t make it legal to have underage people at their home drinking.”
The only way a violation may be rescinded is if the adult takes reasonable action, meaning they either eject a person from the residence or request police officers to eject a person from the residence for consuming alcohol.