It’s a timeless issue that continues to haunt and frustrate parents of teenagers in Fairfield County: Are parents better off breaking the law and serving alcohol to their children in a controlled, supervised environment in their own home? Or should they follow the law and risk having their kids sneak around town to drink alcohol and risk having them harm themselves or others on the roads?
We get calls all the time from parents who struggle with this question, asking about the legal risks of purchasing and serving alcohol to minors. The answer is simple: there are many risks. Too many risks. I’m talking about criminal risks that subject the parents to felonies which are punishable by jail time and thousands of dollars of fines. I’m also talking about civil risks which could, in some of the more serious scenarios, expose all of your assets, real estate, and bank accounts to attachment and seizure by creditors.
So the short answer is don’t do it, and here’s why…
Many parents in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Weston, Wilton, Easton, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk, and New Canaan strongly believe that they should be entitled to do whatever they want in the privacy of their own home. They argue that they should be able to serve alcohol to their children during religious holidays, and if that’s allowed, why shouldn’t they be able to serve alcohol to their teenagers and their friends if they responsibly regulate the consumption of alcohol and take everyone’s car keys? The answer is simple—it’s against the law. Connecticut General Statutes § 30-86(b)(2) prohibits “any person”—including a parent—to provide alcoholic liquor to anyone under 21 years of age.
When police in Stamford, Darien, Greenwich or New Canaan are informed of an underage drinking party at a home, they quickly respond to the home and try to get into the house to break up the party and ensure that everyone is safe. The question we get from many Connecticut parents, however, is whether they are actually entitled to come onto the property and into the home?
The answer is not straightforward—sometimes they are and sometimes they are prohibited by law. If the police ask for permission to come inside your home or onto your property, then you can politely refuse. They still can enter if they have a search warrant, or if they believe in good faith that there is an emergency situation in your home such as the threat of physical harm to someone inside the home. But the police will tread carefully here because if they enter your home illegally, then any evidence they procure from inside the home could later be suppressed by a top Connecticut criminal lawyer as an unconstitutional search and seizure. Finally, if you initially give consent to the police to come into your home, you can always revoke your consent and politely ask them to leave. And obviously, it is always better for you to contact an experienced Stamford, Greenwich or Darien criminal lawyer to assist you in handling this situation and protecting your Connecticut constitutional rights from law enforcement.
When police discover that parents are serving alcohol or hosting teenage drinking parties to kids under 16, Stamford and Norwalk prosecutors can prosecute parents for felony Risk of Injury to a Minor Child charges under Connecticut General Statues § 53-21(a)(1). This charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. Some parents feel that this is too heavy-handed because the parents’ intent in hosting these parties is to protect the children; however, the law does not see it this way.
Too often kids get drunk at a parent-sponsored party and sneak out of the house, get in a car, and get into car accidents resulting in death or serious physical injury. Not only do the drunk drivers get arrested, but so will the parents hosting the parties. (If parents are serving alcohol to individuals 16 and over, but under that age of 21, then the police have the option of charging them with an infraction under C.G.S. § 30-89a or misdemeanor reckless endangerment, or both).
And that’s just the criminal consequences. Then the personal injury lawyers swoop in and try to sue the driver and the party-hosting parents for their hard-earned money. Thus, if you find yourself in a situation where you have hosted a teenaged drinking party and the police are asking questions, then you should immediately contact a top criminal attorney in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan.
Finally, as an aside, the liability that the kids actually face for possessing alcohol at these parties is codified in Connecticut General Statutes § 30-89. The good news is that this is an infraction, not a crime. The bad news, however, is that pleading guilty and mailing a fine into court will result in a 30 to 60 day drivers’ license suspension. Additionally, your child’s insurance carrier will likely raise its premiums because of this guilty plea, and will sometimes terminate coverage altogether. Thus, it’s critical that you consult a top criminal attorney in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan to discuss your options in fighting these tickets.
If you have been issued a ticket under C.G.S. § 30-89 for possession or distribution of alcohol to or by a minor in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Fairfield, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Danbury, New Canaan, or another Connecticut town, then call one of the attorneys at the Mark Sherman Law team to hear how we can help you. Our rates are reasonable and we are focused on getting you the best results possible. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (203) 358-4700.