Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Parents Are Responsible: Liability Laws and Your Son’s Drinking Habits

As a parent, it is tempting to make concessions for bad behavior in your teen, even if you understand that your choice may not be in your child’s best interest. Some parents choose to be more lenient than perhaps they should when it comes to teenage drinking in the home.

It’s an issue that is being addressed by many states in the form of new laws that hope to mitigate harm related to teen drug and alcohol abuse—and many parents are finding themselves on the wrong end of the law as a result.

Teen Alcohol Use Misconceptions

A common misconception is that if the teen drinks at home, the parent will be able to intervene in an emergency, perhaps preventing the issue of drunk driving as well. This misconception has cost parents dearly. Due to the overwhelming statistics surrounding teen drinking and its connection to high rates of alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, and sexual assault, many states have passed liability laws which hold the parents responsible for any activity that happens on their property, including alcohol use by underage drinkers. These laws do not simply apply to the parents who purchase alcohol for their children but also to the parents who turn a blind eye to parties and alcohol consumption that take place at home.

New Liability Laws

In New York, recent headlines highlight the story of a Stanford University professor who allowed his 17-year-old son to throw a party in the basement of their family home. The professor claimed to have no knowledge of alcohol consumption at his son’s party. The police arrived at the home after receiving a complaint concerning the possibility of minors consuming alcohol, and the professor was subsequently arrested on 44 counts of suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Why? New liability laws that place the burden of responsibility for teen behavior at home on the owner of that home. These laws differ from state to state with some upholding “social hosting” laws that require legal action even if the drinking of the minor party does not result in accident or injury. Other states employ parental liability laws that take effect only if there is an accident or injury after a minor has been drinking in their home.

Moving Forward from Alcohol Abuse

In a number of cases, parents are completely unaware of their children’s use of alcohol in their home. Unfortunately, ignorance is not a defense in the eyes of the law.

If your son has an issue with drug and alcohol use, protect yourself and him by providing him with early intervention and treatment. Call us at Muir Wood today to learn how we can help.