Our D.C. underage drinking defense lawyers know that sometimes, despite our very best efforts as parents, we get it wrong. In the case of teenage gatherings, we so want to trust our children that we overlook what is happening right in front of us.
Still, the law in D.C. takes into account not necessarily whether you did know, but whether you should have known. If you host a party where underage drinking is taking place, you can be held responsible, regardless of whether you sanctioned the activities or not. This responsibility extends to situations where a teen may leave your house after consuming alcohol there and subsequently arrested for DUI or is involved in a crash.
Many states outlaw furnishing alcohol to minors. However, unlike some states, D.C. has no exception for alcohol furnished by a parent, spouse, in a private location or residence.
In the case detailed by the mother in the Times, her son had begged her to allow him to throw a party at their home. He was 18, recently-graduated. He was upfront with her about the fact that most of his peers consumed alcohol or drugs with some regularity. After catching him smoking marijuana back when he was in eighth grade, she began drug testing him on a regular basis, something she continued to do throughout his high school career.
The mother viewed this as a chance to show the teens that they could in fact have a substance-free gathering and have fun while doing it. She tried to take every precaution. The social media invitations clearly stated that no drugs or alcohol would be permitted. She hired security to search bags and keep an eye on the grounds, which included a large backyard. She posted “no smoking” signs and placed a few pamphlets on teen drinking and driving next to the refreshments, just for good measure.
However, with the party underway, as she would later learn, the security wasn’t doing everything it was hired to do. Bottles of alcohol were being smuggled over a neighbor’s wall into the back yard. Teens managed to smuggle in marijuana, which was wafting through the air. She didn’t know of any of it because she sat inside with a few adults, confident everything was under control.
Confident, that is, until the cops showed up. Teens scattered. One of the officers led her by the arm to the back yard. There, she could see broken liquor bottles and crumpled beer cans, tossed wine bottles and literally thousands of cigarette butts littering her trampled grass.
She sobbed as she explained to the officers she had no idea what was happening. She told them about the security team she had hired and the posters and the warning on the invitation.
In spite of all that, they warned they could still arrest her. Thankfully, they did not – but they could have.
She was worried sick throughout the night that one of the teens who had fled her home might end up arrested – or worse. She anxiously followed the news throughout that night and into the next day. Nothing happened.
But that was chance.
Parents can do everything right and still get end up burned. Because the sanctions for hosting a party where minors consume alcohol can be serious, you must immediately seek advice from an experienced attorney regarding the criminal case against you.
If you are facing alcohol-related charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.