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Parties are great opportunities for people of all ages to celebrate with friends and family, but it is important to remain responsible while hosting or attending a party. Drug and alcohol consumption can sometimes lead to serious consequences, especially when involving minors.

Parents and other adults have a special responsibility with respect to hosting house parties. Party hosts are required to ensure alcohol is not being served to underage guests. If you host a party and plan to serve alcohol, you should understand your responsibilities and take precautions ahead of time.

Under the Westchester County ‘Social Host Law,’ it is unlawful for any person over the age of 21 to “knowingly allow” or “to fail to take reasonable corrective action upon becoming aware of” the consumption of alcohol by minors in his or her residence. The social host law “[serves] to deter the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors by holding those persons who are 21 years old or more responsible.” First and second offenses of this law result in fines, and a third offense is a misdemeanor, which could result in a criminal conviction and jail time.

Under the New York State Penal Law, any person who gives, sells or causes to be given or sold any alcoholic beverage to someone under the age of 21 faces potential prosecution for Unlawfully Dealing with a Child, a class “A” misdemeanor, which could result in up to one year in jail and/or a fine.

 In addition to understanding local laws about the use of alcohol and drugs, follow these tips for hosting a party for underage guests:

  • Set ground rules before the party with your guests.
  • Decide what part of the house will be used for the party. Choose an area where you can maintain supervision.
  • Limit party attendance and times.
  • Make it very clear that party crashing will not be permitted and that anyone who leaves will not be allowed back in the house.
  • Have plenty of food and nonalcoholic drinks available.
  • Be prepared to ask guests to leave if they refuse to cooperate with your rules.
  • Do not allow anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol to drive. If necessary, take away their car keys.

If you are a parent, take an active role in guaranteeing your teen’s safety at parties. Make sure the hosts are prepared to maintain a safe environment when your teen plans to attend a party at another residence.

Dangerous situations may develop in spite of your best efforts. Do not be afraid to contact emergency services when appropriate. New York’s ‘Good Samaritan’ law offers immunity from prosecution to people who seek emergency help for themselves or another. In most circumstances, don’t be concerned that you might be charged with possession of an unlawful drug or an alcoholic beverage. In the case of a  life-threatening medical emergency involving alcohol or a drug overdose, you should seek medical help immediately.

For more information, read the ‘Safe Celebrations’ brochure.