Social Hosts and Underage Drinking

July 14, 2015

Florida Open House Parties Law

The use of illegal drugs and alcohol is dangerous and can cause serious harm. Drug and alcohol use at a young age can ruin lives, and Florida law particularly discourages their use by minors. Not only can juveniles be convicted of possession, but adults who furnish drugs or alcohol to minors can be convicted of a crime.

Florida’s open house parties law makes adults acting as social hosts to minors criminally responsible when the adults allow the minors to consume drugs or alcohol on their premises. If you have been charged with furnishing drugs or alcohol to a minor, it is essential to retain legal counsel experienced in drug crimes in your case.

Social Hosts

Florida law prohibits adults who have control of a residence from hosting open house parties where any alcoholic beverages or drugs are possessed or consumed by a minor. Under this law, alcoholic beverages are those that contain at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume, and drugs include any controlled substances.

A host may be convicted under Florida’s open house party law if the host knew that alcohol or drugs were in the possession of or were being consumed by a minor, and the host took no reasonable steps to prevent that consumption or possession.

If reasonable steps are taken to prevent consumption or possession, then the host may be able to escape conviction, even if those efforts are not successful. Actual consumption of the alcoholic beverage is not required in order for a social host to be convicted under this statute, as mere possession of the above mentioned items by a minor is enough to constitute a violation of the statute.

To be considered to have control of a residence, the host must have the authority or the ability to regulate or direct the activities occurring on the property. Homes, apartments, condominiums, and other dwelling units are all considered residences for the purposes of this statute.  Furthermore, an open house party is defined as any social gathering at a residence.

Consequences of Violation

Violation of this law is a second degree misdemeanor, and is punishable by:

  • A maximum fine of $500
  • A maximum of 60 days’ imprisonment

Violating this law a second time is a misdemeanor in the first degree. First degree misdemeanors are punishable by:

  • Up to one year’s imprisonment
  • A fine of up to $5,000

Exceptions

The provisions of this statute do not apply to the use of alcoholic beverages served at a legally protected religious observance or activity.

Sentence Enhancements

A violation of Florida’s open house party law is more serious if it results in physical injury or death. If the violation causes or contributes to a serious bodily injury or death, whether to the minor or to another person, as a result of the consumption of alcohol or drugs at the residence, the crime is a misdemeanor in the first degree.

In the state of Florida, violating this statute can have serious repercussions. If you have been arrested for or charged with furnishing alcohol or drugs to a minor, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consult.