Teen party can become nightmare
Summertime is when some teens lose their way by partying. While other drugs are available at parties, the top drug for youth is still alcohol. Teens and some parents don’t realize that underage drinking parties create very serious risks for them and their families. Here’s a fictional, but all-too-realistic example of what could go wrong.
Amy, age 18, is home alone. Her parents felt comfortable going away for the weekend because she is very responsible. But Amy decides to have a party. Friends (all underage) bring alcohol and raid her parents’ liquor cabinet. Partiers are playing “Beer Pong” on her dining room table and some are getting very drunk. More people arrive and soon the party has 30 kids and gets very loud. Neighbors call the police and report a noisy party. When officers arrive they see one teen (age 15) who is unconscious and call for medical assistance.
Police officers could file the following charges:
- Everyone ages 16-20 who is caught with alcohol could be charged with possession of alcohol by a minor and given an adult infraction ticket. The consequences are a fine and loss of license for 30 days (or delay of license for 150 days for those who don’t have one). It costs $175 to reinstate a suspended license. Anyone under 16 could be charged with possession of alcohol and receive a summons to appear in Juvenile Court.
- Amy could be charged under Connecticut’s Social Host Law where anyone, regardless of age, is prohibited from “permitting a minor to possess alcohol in a dwelling unit or on private property.” This is a misdemeanor, a criminal offense. A first offense calls for a fine of up to $2,000 or up to one year in jail or both.
- Amy and others, regardless of age, could be charged with delivery of liquor to a minor if they supplied alcohol at the party. This charge is a felony and the fine is up to $3,500 or up to 18 months in jail or both.
- Amy could be charged with risk of injury to a minor because a youth under the age of 16 required medical assistance. This is a felony and the fine could be up to $10,000 or up to 10 years in jail or both.
Teens who choose to party can face serious legal consequences for their decisions. They also place their families in jeopardy. Who will pay for a lawyer? Who will pay for a likely increase in car insurance for offenses reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles? And how will families feel when word gets out in the community that their son or daughter faces charges?
Amy’s family could also be in jeopardy for civil damages. The parents of the 15-year-old teen who needed medical assistance could sue Amy and her family. Parties such as Amy’s increase risk for injuries due to falls, medical problems, physical or sexual assaults and DUI related car crashes. Costs for lawyers and civil damages can be far greater than court levied fines.
So what can parents do? Set clear rules about using alcohol and other drugs. Talk through consequences if these rules are broken. Discuss the scenario above, possible charges, and ways teens can realistically avoid or extricate themselves from parties like Amy’s. Consider whether or not you should leave your teen unsupervised for more than a few hours. If you choose to go out of town, let neighbors know. Leave your contact information with them and let them know you are OK with their calling police if they see or hear unacceptable behavior.
Secure your own alcohol and prescription drugs to reduce the risk that these items will be used by your teens or their friends. Easy access to the liquor cabinet can make under-age drinking far easier at teen parties.
What can neighbors do? Call parents if possible when you see trouble brewing and/or call the police. Your call may save someone’s child from serious injury or even death.
Good kids make mistakes. It’s our responsibility as parents, neighbors and a community to make it harder for them to do so.
Karen Fischer is the prevention coordinator for the CASFY (Community Action for Substance Free Youth) program at the Lymes' Youth Service Bureau.