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The Consequences of Hosting Underage Drinking

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By: Brian Dever

Recently, a Barrington Rhode Island Doctor was arraigned on charges of violating Rhode Island’s social host law by serving alcohol to minors at a party thrown by his teenaged son. While the man denied procuring any of the alcohol for the party, and denied knowing that alcohol was being served at the party, he still may be found guilty of furnishing alcohol to minors and opens himself up to liability if any of the partygoers were to injure himself or herself or others. He also faces disciplinary action from the State Medical Licensing Board, up to and including removal of his license.

The Rhode Island laws are slightly tougher than those in Massachusetts on the issue of social host liability, but only slightly. In Rhode Island, you can be found guilty of serving alcohol to persons under 21 years of age and will be liable for any damage that they cause regardless of whether you furnished the alcohol, allowed the drinking to occur, or knew or should have known about its existence if the drinking party occurred on your property. Massachusetts does not allow for liability if a property owner did not procure the alcohol, did not give permission to use the property, and did not know of the party’s existence.However, whether you are from Rhode Island or Massachusetts, the consequences of violating the social host laws by serving alcohol to minors can be severe. Anyone who is a parent of a teenager can attest that he or she has been asked to allow a party to occur on his or her property. While the first time offender penalty might seem minimal, the real world consequences can be dire. In addition to the $350.00 fine, you will have a criminal record, possibly lose any professional licenses that you may have, and open yourself up to an immense amount of possible liability if any of the party-goers gets into an accident and injures someone.

I am sure it has been a huge embarrassment to the Rhode Island Doctor. It will be expensive to pay the lawyers to defend him. It will effect his professional reputation for years to come. It is no longer socially or legally acceptable to be the cool parent who allows the “kids” to drink. Instead you just have to be a parent and say no. The consequences of saying yes are too high.