Halloween is approaching, and for teens, that often means attending parties that may involve underage drinking instead of going trick-or-treating. If you or your teen hosts a party where alcohol is served by you or brought in by one of the attendees, be aware that you, your child, and their friends could face a number of charges if caught by local law enforcement. These state and local laws include:
For some areas that have enacted stricter local regulations, social host laws can hold the hosts, including parents, criminally responsible.
Be especially cautious now during the pandemic, when alcohol sales in Georgia are up. Revenues from alcohol sales tax increased by almost 25% from July 2019 to July 2020, according to the Georgia Department of Revenue. More alcohol in houses can mean more access for teens.
Before you or your child hosts a party with underage drinking, know the law.
As an attendee at a party with underage drinking, a teen could be charged with a MIP. In the state of Georgia, any person under the age of 21 who is caught drinking, in possession of alcohol (including possession by consumption), or even attempting to purchase alcohol can be arrested for MIP or given a ticket. In some areas, a police officer can arrest a minor with only probable cause of suspected drinking.
A MIP charge is a misdemeanor in Georgia. For the first offense of minor in possession of alcohol, the maximum penalty is a fine of $300 plus surcharges and up to six months in jail. Subsequent convictions, or charges of either furnishing alcohol to someone under 21 or attempting to purchase alcohol while under 21, can carry penalties up to $1,000 in fines and up to 12 months in jail. A conviction also means a criminal record and can affect school records as well.
Receiving a ticket instead of being arrested does not mean the offense is less of a big deal. In most cases, these are still misdemeanor offenses and can result in a permanent entry on an individual’s record.
Several counties and municipalities have social host laws that go further and allow law enforcement to charge a party host with providing a place for underage drinking. Penalties can include fines, community service, and even jail time for repeat offenders.
Under many local laws, hosts, parents, or property owners can be charged if they knew or should have known about a party or gathering where underage drinking was taking place but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent underage alcohol possession or consumption.
Austell, Acworth, Kennesaw, Cherokee County, and unincorporated Cobb County are among the municipalities that have enacted stricter social host ordinances.
If you (or your child) have been arrested, given a MIP ticket, or charged with violating a social host ordinance, the experienced criminal attorneys at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm can help. Contact us for a complimentary Defense Strategy Meeting.