New Law Could Make Property Owners Liable for Underage Drinking

New legislation could make parents criminally liable for underage drinking on their own property.


Once again, it is time for our children to go back to school. For many parents, these “children” are young adults who will be going off to high school. Some of these parents might be faced with issues involving alcohol and the consumption of alcohol in their homes. 

Many times parents want to do what is right and are sometimes conflicted by thoughts of hosting “controlled” parties at their homes, with limited numbers of teens, under strict supervision, where alcohol is served. This plan is nothing short of a recipe for disaster.

This Spring, State Representative John Frey, Ridgefield Police Chief John Roche and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi testified in front of the Judiciary Committee in support of Substitute House Bill No. 5360 that has become Public Act 12-199 which officially revised Connecticut’s Social Host Law. These three gentlemen, one Republican, one Democrat and one Chief Law enforcement officer spoke of the great challenges being faced by teens in situations involving alcohol especially in environments overseen or controlled by parents.

Our legislature met on the last day of the last session and passed a number of bills that included Public Act 12-199, An Act Prohibiting Certain Persons From Allowing Minors To Possess Alcoholic Liquor In Dwelling Units And On Private Property. A minor is defined as a person under 21 years of age.

The passage of this new law was motivated by the death of two teenagers involved in separate car accidents. It was reported that each minor had been seen drinking alcoholic beverages at house parties where parents were thought to be present but evidently there was not enough evidence that either of the parents knew that underage drinking was taking place.

As of October 1, 2012, no person having possession, control or exercising dominion over any dwelling or private property shall knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence permit any minor to possess alcohol or fail to make reasonable efforts to halt such possession. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

This new law should give parents and others individuals reason to pause before giving in to the idea of hosting or even permitting a party involving alcohol to occur at their property where minors are involved.


Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. A graduate of Fordham Law School, he has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of numerous books. He is an outspoken advocate for teen driver safety reform and education and as a result was appointed to DMV Commissioner Melody Currey's Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving which is investigating proposed national models for parent and teen education and accident prevention. He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.

louis September 23, 2012 at 01:46 AM
I would be against such insanity were it to come before me. What they are trying to do is find arbitrary reasons to deprive one of their property. It is another effort of government intrusion into our lives and current laws on the books would penalise appropriately any infraction...as Tacitus once wrote, the more laws a society has, the more corrupt it is. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Richard. This is another example of an out-of-control and incompetent Malloy legislative session. So in other words, decriminalising pot but making you liable for something your child does, with or without your knowledge. Insanity
Joan September 24, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I believe the law is not targeting homeowners where alcohol consumption by minors occurs without the homeowner's knowledge, but rather in cases where the homeowner allows such possession or consumption "knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence." Any reasonably prudent adult, especially a parent of a teenager, would probably agree that this makes a lot of sense. I do not understand parents who allow--or even procure--alcohol for their teens & friends with the rationale that "they're going to drink anyway, at least they're drinking at home."
louis September 24, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Joan we have an open forum where people have the right to speak. In the communist countries you do not have that right, on the pretext that the people do not know anything. I will tell you the reason behind this is to impose civil or criminal penalties on someone other than who is at fault. It is destructive to two thousand years of legal precedence. There is no discussion of increasing the criminal penalty for minor who engage in underage drinking, for business reasons. This law will cause more chaos than it solves. As courts must interpret legal wording, as you can see the word "reckless" is a loophole. What does that mean? It will be up to a judge, appointed by the legislature to decide. You must look at how these bills will work in the worse case scenario, because often that is what will happen regarding the limited intelligence of humanity, even for those wearing black robes.
Joan September 24, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Louis, I have no idea what any of this has to do with Communist countries and the write to speak or post on a forum. The person "at fault" in the situation covered under this bill would indeed be the one facing the penalties, i.e., the adult who knowingly or negligently allowed underage minors to consume alcohol on their property.
Rick September 24, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Lou you just talk with thinking. It's like an involuntary burp or a fart. Parents are so egregiously violating common sense and putting their own and other people's teens at risk, that there must be a threat of property loss. If peopl want to protect their "rights" and assetts, then they have the power and choice to make healthy and respectful decisions. This is a community issue because when parents are negligent, innocent people are at risk. The risghts for public safety and that of minors trumps individual property rigths in this situation.
Jim Flynn September 24, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I would assume that Louis is also against drunk driving laws, speed limits, stop signs, seat belt rules and smoking prohibitions. Each one is an infringement on one's property rights in the name of public safety. What a knuclehead.
louis September 25, 2012 at 12:01 AM
You have to first define reckless. This type of change in the law could mean that it will be extended in the future to laws that include a child going to a party. If you let the child go to a party are you reckless. Does that then mean you are liable for criminal and civil sanctions. I'm not sure why I can understand this stuff, but you guys can't. That is how they take your rights away, by getting people who haven't thought this through to give their consent. What I am saying is, in non democratic countries they always use the people to hang themselves
louis September 25, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Jim You are a fool. I am not against personal resposibility. I am against the dillusion of that by making someone responsible in some bizarre way for someone elses mistake. You could have someone crash a party. Maybe that is your screwup of a kid, jim....sorry but I'm not going to let you take property from a parent of someone who threw a party that your loser kid shows up to.
louis September 25, 2012 at 12:22 AM
And besides the fact that this law smells horribly like it was composed by someone with an agenda, someone who is inobjective in their law making, and someone who has no idea what they are doing, it clearly is an attempt to remove the similar liability regarding taverns and bars. Actually it sounds right up the ally way with Dave Rutigliano, and irresponsible professional conveyers of liquor who are held civily responsible for serving booze to intoxicated patrons. That law was composed and workable to ensure that bars (whose profession it is to serve such beverages) would be responsible in cutting off alchoholics or others who frequent their establishments far from home. You see in a private house, the guests could always stay over and not drive long distances. But that is another matter altogether concerning responsible adults. Would you folks similarly recommend were someone to get into an accident driving from Dave's victory party, that Jack Testani should pay their medical bills? Do I get his house? Tell me where the limitations are today on this legal reasoning and I will tell you where we will be in fifty years
louis September 25, 2012 at 12:26 AM
So in the same legislative session, pot decriminalised. Booze sold on sundays in radical departure from four hundred years of Connecticut State Law, and We get Jack testani's house if someone smashes up from his party....nice.....do you see how important public leadership is now, people? That all you need is one moron to be elected Governor and you literally could be left destitute for something someone else does.


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