Written by Keith Blackmar, Public Information Officer, WCSO Monday, 09 January 2012 12:41
What some teenagers and parents don’t know is that liability laws can leave parents vulnerable to lawsuits, fines and even jail time if underage drinking is found to be going on under their roof. Parents can get in trouble with the law even if they don’t know about the drinking.
According to research co-sponsored by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and the insurance company Liberty Mutual, more teenagers report that their parents allow them to go to parties where alcohol is being served. The percentage has increased five percent from 2009 to 2011 and is now at 41 percent of those questioned.
The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office conducts routine “Party Patrols” and a number of teenagers have been reported drinking at locations within the Apalachicola National Forest and elsewhere. Undersheriff Maurice Langston said the sheriff’s office has received a number of tips over the years about teenagers who are drinking at popular locations in the national forest and has aggressively worked to combat the problem of underage drinking.
“Deputies will go to the location to investigate and break up the gathering while disposing of the alcohol,” said Undersheriff Langston. “Deputies make sure parents come to the location to pick up their children and give them safe transportation home. We have had great cooperation within the community informing the sheriff’s office about the locations of these outdoor parties so we can go and break them up.”
If the parties are being held in a residential home it is possible that the parents can be charged under state statutes with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child abuse. The degree of civil liability can increase if one of the teenagers drinks at the home and is injured or killed or creates bodily harm while driving under the influence of alcohol.
“Where the parties are taking place at the parent’s home, liability depends on the parent’s level of knowledge or involvement,” said Major Shepard Bruner of the WCSO. “It often comes down to ‘did you know’ and ‘should you have known’ what was happening at your home. In Florida, parents can also be held civilly liable for their juvenile child’s DUI related vehicle crash.”
“The safest thing to do is make sure your teenagers are not drinking,” concluded Undersheriff Langston. “It is always better to not allow drinking at all rather than taking the attitude that it is safer to allow underage drinking under your roof rather than having it occur at some unknown outside location.”
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