After a long week of work, few things take the edge off like throwing back a few brews with the gang. Going out to bars can get expensive quickly, so why not just party at someone’s house? After all, if everyone gets too drunk to drive a car, they can just crash on the couches and floor. Really, everyone wins.
But what happens if a minor shows up to the party? In general, you’re still in the clear. You and your friends over 21 can continue to pound back the beers, while your 20-year-old coworker nurses root beer instead. While it may be tempting to think, “He’s close enough to 21. Give him a drink!” doing so is downright illegal.
Minors Drinking at Home
In some states, minors may drink at home (and even in some establishments) if they have parental consent and supervision. However, Pennsylvania is not one of these states. The only time when an underage drinker likely won’t be in trouble for consumption is if they are reporting a medical emergency involving another underage drinker.
For instance, if two recent high school grads, both 18, go to the creek to celebrate with tequila, and one gets alcohol poisoning, the other can call an ambulance without worrying about getting into trouble.
Serving Alcohol to Minors
To go back to the original scenario, let’s say the legal adults are all pretty drunk by the time the 20-year-old intern shows up. Naturally, they let him in and, being the responsible adults they are, offer non-alcoholic beverages. However, when they go back to partying, the intern grabs a beer instead.
After a while, the cops show up because there was a noise complaint. An officer discovers the underage intern has been drinking. The host of the party may get into legal trouble, even though they did not technically serve the alcohol to the minor.
The reason the host may get into trouble in this scenario is a doctrine commonly called “contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” though in Pennsylvania it’s technically called “corruption of minors.” Essentially, because the crime of underage drinking happened in the host’s home, they should have done more to put a stop to it. Of course, if the host actually served the alcohol to the minor, they can also be charged with furnishing alcohol to minors.
Protecting Yourself from Criminal Charges
In general, you are in the clear if you are legally drinking while minors are present. (After all, parents do it all the time when they have a glass of wine at a family dinner.) However, the moment a minor, no matter how close they are to being 21, consumes alcohol, you could be held legally responsible. As such, a good rule of thumb is: If minors are going to be at your party, keep drinking to an absolute minimum, if at all.
Not only should you protect yourself from corruption of minors charges, you should also keep an eye on how much you’ve had to drink if you plan on driving. If you are charged, contact Steven E. Kellis today for a free consultation with an experienced Pennsylvania underage DUI lawyer.