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Parents and Parties Part 1

As we enter the holiday season, many choose to celebrate by having gatherings and parties with family and friends.  And many of those parties include the consumption of alcohol.  However, if you host or attend a party, and your children or their friends drink alcohol in your home or at that party, you could potentially face criminal or civil penalties depending on the circumstances.  Part 1 of this series will address this issue in the context of criminal liability.  Part 2 will address the issue in the context of civil liability.    

Indiana Code Section 7.1-5-7-8 states that it is a class B misdemeanor for a person to recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally sell, barter, exchange, provide or furnish alcohol to minors.  The offense is a class A misdemeanor if the individual has a prior conviction for the same offense.  The crime is a level 6 felony if the consumption, ingestion, or use of the alcoholic beverage is the proximate cause of the serious bodily injury or death of any person. 

As a social host, one needs to be generally aware of the guests who are attending and what those guests are consuming.  It is clear that adults cannot knowingly or intentionally provide or furnish alcohol to minors or children who attend their holiday parties.  Like alcohol, it is a crime to knowingly sell lottery tickets or tobacco to minors.  I.C. 4-30-13-1 and 35-46-1-10. 

However, unlike lottery tickets and cigarettes, the alcohol statute includes another mental state, “reckless.”  While “recklessly” is a level of mental culpability that is not as severe as knowing or intentional, it is, nevertheless, a culpable mental state.  Hevenor v. State, 784 N.E.2d 937, 940 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003).  Reckless is defined as engaging “in the conduct in plain, conscious, and unjustifiable disregard of harm that might result and the disregard involves a substantial deviation from acceptable standards of conduct.” I.C. 35–41–2–2.

It would seem that parents would not necessarily be required to regularly inspect the cup every minor that comes into their home or attends a party or face criminal charges.  However, it would not be difficult to imagine a circumstance where a parent might engage in reckless behavior in this context.  There does not appear to be any Indiana cases that squarely address how an adult can recklessly provide or furnish alcohol.  However, what if parents permitted their teenage children to host a party in their basement and did so knowing that the fridge was full of wine and alcohol?  Do parents need to lock up or secure their alcohol in their home?  What if a parent's child or his or her friend drinks in the home without the parent's knowledge?  These are questions that a court may need to consider in the future, but ones which parents should be mindful of now during this holiday season.  An experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney can help you with the questions you are bound to have.

If you have been charged with a crime or are facing a civil lawsuit, contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law, and its application to their individualized case.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.