The Massachusetts social host law was back in the media this weekend when a mother and son were arrested following a large underage drinking party at their Cohasset home.
Police found 30 people at the Deep Run Road gathering. The mother was charged with furnishing alcohol to minors under the social host law, keeping a disorderly house and disturbing the peace. Her 18-year-old son was charged with furnishing alcohol to minors and being a minor in possession of alcohol.
The Massachusetts social host law was passed in 2000 after the 1996 death of a Marshfield teen. The teen had been drinking at a Cohasset graduation party and left with a blood alcohol limit of .19, crashing his car.
In that case, the homeowner was at the party but acquitted of providing alcohol to a minor. This was in part because underage guests helped themselves to unsupervised alcohol and were not offered drinks.
The social host law now holds Massachusetts homeowners and their teenagers more accountable. It is against the law to serve minors alcohol and allow them to consume it on any premises you control. The penalty is a fine up to $2,000, imprisonment for a year or both.
A person charged under the law can expect to face a civil lawsuit as well. If an underage guest leaves a party and causes a motor vehicle accident involving personal injury or death, both the underage guest and the party host may be liable.
When two or more parties are found civilly liable, any one of them may be required to pay the full judgment if the other party or parties cannot afford to pay.