December is the month for holiday parties, and for marking the end of a tough year. If you’re like the rest of us, you’re ready to send 2016 into the history books so that we can plan on all of the greatness 2017 has to offer. It couldn’t get much worse, at least… So, let’s all remember that we have choices to make in the New Year, especially when we’re hosting a party for the holidays or celebrating just for the heck of it. It’s time to refresh our memories on our social host laws.
Social host laws vary by state and determine your consequences if a party goer is convicted of a DUI or drunk driving crime.
If you are hosting a party this holiday season, or anytime throughout the year, you have legal responsibilities. By continuing to serve a friend who is clearly intoxicated, you are contributing to their dangerous behavior if they then drive away from your gathering. In New Jersey, that means you could be responsible for any injuries to victims of your guest’s DUI. In most states, you may only be held accountable for property damage, and in other states (like Maryland), you are only responsible if the driver is under the age of 21.
Obviously, nobody wants to have any involvement in a DUI, legally or ethically. Being the gracious host you are, you can always offer options to your guests, like alcohol-free drinks, a safe ride home or the chance to sleep it off at your house. Taking your guests’ keys when they enter your home is a safety tip that most sober guests will appreciate, even if they’re not as thrilled by the time they’re drunk and ready to head home.
Social host laws are just another reason for us to be careful around alcohol, especially if we are serving it at our house or a private party. You may not be the one who ends up with a DUI and car breathalyzer (ignition interlock) requirement, but you’ll have a lot to answer for if someone is injured as a result of your special holiday cocktails that were served.