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Party Host Consequences


David: Lots of reasons to celebrate with the return of spring. Cookouts, prom season, Memorial Day, and with nicer weather it has police on the lookout for underage drinking.

Jan: Attorney Jeff Kroll joins us to talk about how adults can keep kids safe while keeping themselves out of legal hot water. And of course, we’ve got prom season coming around. I don’t condone teen drinking and I don’t condone parents who allow that inside their home, but we know it happens. So, what culpability does a parent have if for instance, if they allow friends of their teen to come over and drink?

Jeff: This segment should be called Do As We Say, Not As We Did, because, for the fact of the matter, a lot of us engaged in this pre-prom parties, post-prom parties, and back in the day, they said “Don’t have a party, we’re gonna get sued as parents.” And that wasn’t necessarily true, now it is. In January of 2004, there was a new statute enacted that said if you as a parent or homeowner or anyone over the age of 18, brother, sister, you name it, supply alcohol to minors and either that minor is injured or they injure someone else, you’re responsible financially. And that was a change in the law, because there was no social host liability. So, if you had a party back in the day, and let’s face it, the prom is Super Bowl for these kids, this is their big day, and you gotta be nervous, because if my son is having a party, Jack and he invites his buddy Zach over, and I leave and I don’t know what is going on because I’m out with the parents and we don’t come home that night. There’s a good shot we’re not going to be responsible. But the bigger loophole is what happens with the parents that say…

Jan: Wait a minute, you’re not responsible if you’re not home, so then what if they get alcohol from your house though?

Jeff: That’s another issue. There’s a couple loopholes in the statute that I think need to be addressed. Number one, what are you doing to protect these individuals from not getting or obtaining alcohol? Let’s face it, a pre-prom party at your house and you’re not home, are you naive enough to think no one’s gonna be drinking, there’s no way. I know parents that’ll just go out of town for prom, you know, once they do the pictures they’ll go out of town. Essentially, what you’re doing is turning a blind eye and saying “Go at it,” but under the statute, they’re not deliberately providing alcohol to the minors, and that’s a loophole that needs to be addressed.

David: Well, that’s a whole ‘nother section here. There are parents as bad as this is who might think, “You know what? I am gonna host this party, because I’m gonna have…they’re gonna drink anyway, so let me have them drinking in my house under my supervision.” And so they do the wink and the nod, and they give the kid…let them have the beer or so. Recently there was a case in Naperville of a mom who’s now been charged with serving to minors, got eight days for that. What kind of penalties does a parent face under those circumstances?

Jeff: Well, it depends on the gravity, obviously, of the situation. No longer are they getting a slap on the wrist, no longer are the laws turning their cheek and just letting them do this. They’re coming down on them hard, and the big change like I mentioned is they’re now responsible for financial damages. And that is a big change in the law, and it should act as a deterrent for most, and I don’t know if it is.

Jan: What happens if a child is at prom, and they bring alcohol to prom. The school doesn’t know about it, and then they leave the school. You as a parent, you don’t know this is going on, does the school have any responsibility?

Jeff: I doubt it, but it’s a what did they know and when did they know it type of scenario. Let’s face it, kids are going to be sneaking in the flasks, kids are going to be doing things of that nature, you know, we all did that. Not we all, I’m sure there were people that did that as teenagers, but you know the school needs to be vigilant. I keep mentioning this, these students at this age, this is their day where they don’t think there’s boundaries. They’re living without limits, they’re getting ready for their commencement, the start of a new life, they think they’re adults, they want to start that day acting like adults.

Jan: I’m gonna be such a not cool mom. I’m going with my kid to prom. I’ll be their date.

Jeff: Ouch.

David: There’s a lot of ways to deal with this. Don’t think you have to go that route. Jeff, thank you for joining us. Important topic here.

Jan: So cool. All right, thanks for coming in.