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Party planners should beware of underage guests and alcohol

Spring break is a good time to get together with your friends, especially if you've all scattered to different colleges since high school.

For a lot of people, that means having alcohol on hand to serve to guests -- but all of you party planners out there need to be cautious about serving any friends who are still under the legal drinking age. Not only is it illegal, it could make you responsible for any accident they have while driving home How is that possible?

First, there's a zero-tolerance policy regarding underage drinking and driving. Anyone under the age of 21 who has any alcohol in his or her system is guilty of drunk driving. That means that if he or she is in an accident, he or she is most likely going to be found negligent and at fault.

Second, California has a pretty strict social host liability law when it comes to minors. The goal of the law is specifically to keep alcohol out of the hands of those who are underage. Under the law, if you serve a friend that you know or should have known is under 21, you're considered responsible for any accidents or deaths he or she causes while intoxicated.

What else should you keep in mind?

If you're holding the party at your parents' house, you could be opening up your parents to liability as well. If they knew or had reason to believe that you might hold a party with both alcohol and underage friends, a case could be made that they were equally responsible for any accidents that resulted.

It's also important to remember that you can't sober up your friends by pouring coffee into them or having them take a cold shower -- only time will sober someone up. If you're going to have a party, make it clear that nobody is going home until morning when the alcohol is long gone from their systems.

If you're the victim of an underage drunk driver, it's important to find out where he or she got the alcohol. The liability for your injuries may extend to that person -- and you may need to pursue a case against him or her in order to be fully compensated. For more information, talk to an attorney about the specifics of your case.

Source: www.dosomething.org, "11 Facts About Driving Under the Influence," accessed March 23, 2017

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