Underage Drinking

Even Riskier Than You Might Realize

Teen drinking. Not a pleasant thought, especially if you are the parent of a high school student. Your mind jumps to all sorts of possible outcomes: alcohol poisoning, a police arrest, mangled cars, ambulance lights flashing…

1209_Drinking_FAnd the numbers support your parental worries. According to research conducted in 2005 by VCU, 59 percent of Virginia youth surveyed in grades eight through twelve admitted to experimenting with alcohol, and 32 percent admitted to drinking within 30 days of the survey. Statistics abound. The fact is that many teens drink.

So, why not provide a safe haven for them to do so? Why not host an underage drinking party for your children and their friends? No one will have to drive, the kids can be supervised, and no harm will come of it, right?

Wrong. There are a number of reasons why providing alcohol to underage drinkers is a bad idea, ranging from ethical and moral considerations, to facing the wrath of parent and community groups who oppose hosting teen drinking parties. But the most fundamental reason? It’s illegal.

The Virginia Code states that the following are both class one misdemeanors: purchasing or giving alcohol to someone you know is under 21 years old; and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The punishment for a conviction of either could result in up to twelve months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.

Yes, you read that correctly. You could serve up to a year in jail if you choose to host an underage drinking party. Plus, you could have your driving privileges revoked. We’re talking life-changing consequences for engaging in this criminal behavior.

According to Richmond Police Officer Mike DiSalvo, it’s quite common for the police department to receive reports of teen parties involving alcohol. “If we get a call saying there are some underage drinkers at a party, we will go out there and investigate,” said DiSalvo, who has responded to these kinds of calls.

Concerned members of the community are encouraged to report teen drinking parties. When asked if parents will be arrested, the officer nodded solemnly, stating that parents and adults who break the law will be charged fully for their violations.

Aside from criminal sanctions, parents who host drinking parties for minors could face civil liabilities for injuries that occur at the events. In fact, parents could be held responsible for injuries whether or not they hosted the event or were even at home when the drinking occurred. For example, if a homeowner had a porch with a loose board, and an intoxicated guest fell and was injured because of that defect, the homeowner could be forced to pay for the injury and related expenses, including pain and suffering.

Bottom line? Parents should be alert and attentive to the activities taking place at their homes. And if you’re trying to be the cool parent by hosting an underage drinking party, just think how cool you’ll look wearing that orange jumpsuit.