There are few people in the United States today who have not heard of the latest defense put forward for a juvenile who killed four people while driving drunk. Many say that this defense is dangerously close to or does fail every common sense standard there is; the exception to to this group is of course attorneys. Attorneys typically owe a duty of zealous representation to their clients and must work in their clients’ best interests, even if that means upsetting some citizens’ ideas of fairness. As the “affluenza defense” joins the ranks of unique arguments like the “twinkie defense” or the now infamous “bloody glove defense,” the next question is: how far of a reach will it have? There are other liability concerns that must be addressed when a teen driver causes an accident, which likely cannot be brushed away by implications of “affluenza.”
The “Social Host”
Most of the time, it is a good thing to be called a good host. It generally means that the people who attend your house parties have a good time and would likely return if invited again. In the case of underage drinking, however, being a social host takes on a whole new meaning. In 2012, Illinois passed a law that allowed adults who are in charge of minors to be punished if they contributed to a minor’s delinquency (i.e. gave them alcohol) and then someone was injured. The law took effect in January of 2013 and was passed to provide accountability where before there was none. Legislators stated that the intent of the law was to “protect our youth” by sending a message to adults that they will be held liable for any damage done by underage partiers under their roof.
In order to be considered a social host, a person must “knowingly authorize or permit underage drinking in their home.” If the minors then leave the party and are involved in a car accident on their way home, the homeowner/parent can be found guilty of a Class 4 felony. The law also punishes the adults when the minors make it home safely, as merely knowingly offering alcohol to minors carries with it a fine and charge of a Class A misdemeanor. There are ways for unsuspecting adults to mitigate their potential liability, if their child or his/her friend sneaks alcohol to an otherwise sober party. The law provides for no liability in the event it can be shown that the adult “took reasonable steps to prevent the activity” and/or assistance is requested from law enforcement after the drinking is discovered.
Not all states are as lenient as Illinois when it comes to holding parents liable for the actions of their children. As one parent from California found out the hard way, ignorance is not a shield in all cases. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, call the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C today and speak to an attorney. Our experience can help you through this difficult time and help you on your path to recovery.