Alcohol and Graduation Parties Are a Bad Mix 

Hats off to the graduates. This is an accomplishment that should be celebrated and many parents do so by throwing a party.  While many view their graduates as adults, under the law they are not, and parents should resist the temptation to allow alcohol at graduation parties.

Under New York law, if alcohol is supplied to minors at a party, the person supplying the alcohol, usually the party host, is responsible for injuries arising as a result of the minor’s intoxication.  This includes injuries not only to the minor, but also to others who may be injured by the minor’s conduct.

New York law states:  Any person who shall be injured in person, property, means of support or otherwise, by reason of the intoxication or impairment of ability of any person under the age of twenty-one years, whether resulting in his death or not, shall have a right of action to recover actual damages against any person who knowingly causes such intoxication or impairment of ability by unlawfully furnishing to or unlawfully assisting in procuring alcoholic beverages for such person with knowledge or reasonable cause to believe that such person was under the age of twenty-one years.

For example, if the intoxicated minor gets behind the wheel and gets into a crash with another car, the occupants of the other vehicle can sue the person who supplied or sold the alcohol to the minor.

It’s important to understand that you are responsible for injuries arising as a result of a minor’s intoxication if:

  • You supply alcohol to the minor
  • You make alcohol available to the minor
  • You give the minor money that you know will be used to purchase alcohol
  • You purchase alcohol for a party at which you know minors will be drinking
  • You encourage alcohol consumption by the minor

The Suffolk Legislature has passed a bill strengthening the County’s social host law, making it a misdemeanor for an adult to serve or allow alcohol to be served to minors on their property.  The law was designed to discourage adults from hosting underage drinking parties. The penalty under the original law was a violation.

“Alcohol remains the deadliest drug on the planet and underage drinking has contributed to the mess we’re in today. This common-sense bill strengthens Suffolk’s social host law, proactively protects public health and ultimately, will save lives,” says Dr. Jeff Reynolds, president and CEO of Family and Children’s Services.

Suffolk Legislator Tom Cilmi pushed for harsher penalties because he said the previous law was too weak.”A violation requires a police officer witnessing the offense taking place, which made it difficult for the police department to enforce the social host law,” says Cilmi. The strengthened law is punishable by a fine of up to $500 for the first offense, and a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail for following offenses.  The increased penalty comes in time for graduation parties across the county.

Alcohol and gradation is a dangerous mix. Statistics show that a teenager’s brain is still developing and is very sensitive to alcohol’s effects on judgment and decision-making. Not only should you not serve alcohol at the parties you host but you should talk to your graduates about alcohol. A useful resource is www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov.

If you or someone you care about has been injured, contact Rosenberg & Gluck, personal injury attorneys, for a free, confidential legal consultation to learn more about your options.