Can I be held responsible for underage drinkers if I’m legal but others at a party aren’t?

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Can I be held responsible for underage drinkers if I’m legal but others at a party aren’t?

I am 21 but I’m dating a girl who is 20. She is having a party but I do not want to attend if her under 21 friends get busted and I can be held responsible even though I’m not supplying any of the alcohol.

Asked on May 1, 2009 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Usually, underage drinking laws target people who supply alcohol to people under 21, or who allow alcohol to be given to underage drinkers on their property.  If you don't live with your girlfriend, and the party isn't at your house or apartment, it should not be your problem.

The problem is not just being charged with a criminal offense, though.  If an underage drinker leaves the party, and causes an accident while driving drunk and someone gets hurt, the person or people who supplied the alcohol can be sued.  As with the criminal offense, on the same facts, you should not be liable.

It isn't always that simple, though.  You can be charged and later found not guilty, or sued and later found not to be liable.  In the meantime, you could run up thousands of dollars in legal fees and go through a lot of inconvenience and possible embarrassment.

To get detailed information on the law in Pennsylvania, see a local lawyer -- you can find one at http://attorneypages.com


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