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Alcohol, Drugs, and Open House Parties

In Florida, parents can be held criminally responsible if alcohol or drugs are consumed on their property during an “open house party”. Florida law provides clearly that “A person having control of any residence may not allow an open house party to take place at the residence if any alcoholic beverage or drug is possessed or consumed at the residence by any minor where the person knows that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor at the residence and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug.” F.S. 856.015(2).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underage consumtion of alcohol and other illicit drugs continues to ravage the lives of many youngsters and their families. In its latest report, the CDC notes that “alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs, and is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.”

Open house parties in Florida were front and center in the 1990s when a young male teenager was beaten to death by fellow guests of an open house party. The brutal beating took place in the front lawn of the house where the party occurred. The legislator reacted to the events and passed a new law, which is the current law stated above.

Parents face potential criminal charges, but they also could get sued and be held civilly responsible if a teenaged consumed alcohol or an illicit drug while on their property and goes on to cause property damage, injury or death to others or themselves during or after leaving the party.

Leesfield Scolaro has recently represented two families whose underage teenage relatives were injuries and killed as a result of an open house party that including alcohol consumption.

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