Underage Drinking & your Property: What You Need to Know

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Approaches to Underage Drinking

As a parent, you likely take one of two approaches to underage drinking: prohibition or harm reduction. You either have clear, zero tolerance expectations, or you have an agreement that your child may only drink under your supervision. Some parents go so far as to host parties on special occasions such as prom night, reasoning that underage drinking is likely to happen with or without adult supervision and (they believe) attendees will be safer with it. Whether or not this is true, you need to know that there are legal consequences to underage drinking on your property.

Laws Regarding Underage Drinking on your Property

When it comes to serving alcohol to people under the age of 21, Arizona provides exception for parents who choose to allow their children to drink, for instance, a glass of wine with dinner in their own home.

Outside of immediate family members, it is a class 1 misdemeanor to provide alcohol to minors. But what if you’re not at home? Local measures called social host ordinances hold parents accountable for underage drinking on their property, even if they are not present and even if they are unaware any illegal activity was taking place. The idea is to make parents hyper-vigilant about their kids’ access to alcohol and to prevent house parties, where the majority of underage drinking takes place.

Consequences of Not Following the Law

As written, these laws leave little room for consideration of the specific situation. Even if you keep no alcohol in your home, consider your child trustworthy and did not anticipate a crowd of teenagers crashing your first floor, you may face hefty fines. Even if you are a landlord and your tenants throw a party where underage attendees are served alcohol, you can be held responsible.

Because these laws differ from county to county and city to city, it’s important to be aware of your child’s activities and err on the side of caution when it comes to preventing underage drinking. If you find yourself facing fines or jail time, take legal counsel before you give the police information that could build a case against you.

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