When a teen party gets out of hand

As a parent, there are times when you relent to your child’s pleas. The Rasabis of Boca Raton did just that. They let their teen sons have a homecoming after party at their home. Big mistake!

The party turned into a disaster. Apparently, only about 100 kids were invited but the word spread on Facebook and about 350 underage party crashers arrived on buses and brought alcohol with them. Students were passed out and vomiting on the front lawn. The police and paramedics were called. The party ended when the parents hosting it were arrested along with six other teens.

There are a variety of accounts of what happened at the party. What is clear is that it wasn’t a good scene.   The Palm Beach Post and the Sun Sentinel published police accounts that said alcohol was rampant, a keg was on the premise, and the parents were upstairs. However, a close friend of mine says she knows the hosts and that they are responsible parents. She says the parents had hired security, and that articles and police report don’t accurately describe what happened.

As a parent, this clarified for me that I will never have a teen party at my home. Someone is bound to bring booze. Still, I wanted to know exactly what the law says about parental liability when teens drink at your home.

I asked Miami criminal defense attorney Dan Lurvey for guidance.

Me: What if an underage teen arrives at your home and he’s already been drinking?

Lurvey: It becomes a factual question. There could be additional burden on you if you allow him to continue drinking at your party. That’s going to be a real problem if he gets in his car and drives and hurts himself or someone else.  

Me: Are you liable if an underage teen drinks at your home but you don’t supply the alcohol?

Lurvey: It’s all a question of knowledge. If you are having a party, and you see them break out alcohol and drink and they are minors, it’s the same thing as if you supplied alcohol. You are allowing an illegal act to occur and not stopping it.

Me: What if teens come to your home when you the parent aren’t there and get into your liquor or bring it with them.  If they are drinking, and they are unsupervised, what’s the parental liability?

Lurvey: You have to have knowledge that certain things are occurring to break the law.  It would be hard to hold you criminally liable when you had no idea it was happening. But if they found out every Saturday the teens were there between 10 and 11 and they were drinking and you made no effort to stop it, it could be argued that you should have known.

With regard to a civil suit, if someone leaves drunk, gets into a car and kills someone, a plaintiff could sue a parent for negligence for allowing teens to be home alone without adequate supervision. It would be up to the jury to decide whether to hold a parent responsible. In the Boca case, the parents were arrested for hosting an “open house party”  which must be a city or county law. That’s a different kind of liability.

So what do you think about this party disaster? Does it change your mind about hosting a teen party? Do you think these parents should have done anything differently?

(Photo from party below as seen on SunSentinel.com)

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