RESPONSIBLE PARENTING: Providing Alcohol to High School Students Has Stiff Legal Penalties

Author: Attorney Tammy S. Ruble

As the mother of a high school senior, I know this time of year is filled with exciting events and activities for students.  Graduation is just weeks away and many parents will throw parties to celebrate this milestone.  Knowing the allure that alcohol holds for some teens, it may be tempting for parents to try to ensure their children's safety by providing alcohol at these parties, eliminating the need for some teens to drink in secrecy away from home. After all, if they're going to get together and drink, isn't it better for them to drink at home where parents can ensure no one drives or engages in some other dangerous activity while under the influence?

This approach might appear to make sense, but parents should resist the urge to engage in such logic. Providing alcohol to underage guests in your home is a crime with severe penalties in Virginia,  including incarceration and loss of your driver's license.

Virginia Code Section §4.1-305[1] states that "Any person who purchases for, or otherwise gives, provides, or assists in the provision of alcoholic beverages to another person, knowing that such person was less than 21 years of age" is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. Such a conviction is punishable with up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. As an added penalty, any person convicted of such an offense "shall have his license to operate a motor vehicle suspended for a period of not more than one year."  Jail time, a hefty fine and the loss of your license, all because you thought you were being a responsible parent?  . Could this really happen? Yes.

Virginia authorities are serious about prosecuting these offenses.  One mother in Albemarle County, Virginia, thought she was doing the right thing by holding her son's 16th birthday party at her home under her supervision and taking away the car keys of the guests to prevent anyone from leaving while under the influence.  She purchased several hundred dollars worth of alcohol for the underage guests.  As a result, she was convicted of multiple counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and ultimately sentenced to 27 months in jail.[2] Ms. Kelly took an active role in providing the alcohol to the teens.  But the penalties can be severe for not monitoring teens drinking alcohol at your home, as well.

According to reports, another mother in Henrico County, Virginia, chose to look the other way when a party involving drugs and alcohol took place in her home.[3] Convicted of 16 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, she was sentenced to 1,170 days in jail by a Henrico County judge, with all but 15 days suspended.

Such convictions would be life-changing -- maybe life-ruining -- events for most of us.  Convictions and incarceration could result in the loss of your job, leading to the loss of your home, and even the loss of custody of your children.   Please don't take a chance. For information and suggestions on how to protect your children and yourself, please see "Parental Guide to Hosting Responsible Teen Parties," a guide developed by the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and available at http://www.abc.state.va.us/Education/parents.html.

About the Author: Tammy Ruble is a long time Chesterfield resident and an attorney with personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. She serves as a resource on issues in her special fields of expertise which include the crafting of Complaints and documents relating to infant settlements, wrongful death settlements, due diligence, and discovery. Make sure your teenage driver is prepared in the event of a car accident. Download the Mobile Accident App from Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen for their smart phone and your teen driver will always be prepared at the scene of an accident. If you don't have a smart phone, click here to request or download an accident guide to keep in your glove compartment box.


[1] § 4.1-306. Purchasing alcoholic beverages for one to whom they may not be sold; penalty; forfeiture.

A. Any person who purchases alcoholic beverages for another person, and at the time of such purchase knows or has reason to believe that the person for whom the alcoholic beverage was purchased was (i) interdicted, or (ii) intoxicated, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

A1. Any person who purchases for, or otherwise gives, provides, or assists in the provision of alcoholic beverages to another person, knowing that such person was less than 21 years of age, except (i) pursuant to subdivisions 1 through 7 of § 4.1-200; (ii) where possession of the alcoholic beverages by a person less than 21 years of age is due to such person's making a delivery of alcoholic beverages in pursuance of his employment or an order of his parent; or (iii) by any state, federal, or local law-enforcement officer when possession of an alcoholic beverage is necessary in the performance of his duties, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. In addition to any other penalty authorized by law, any person found guilty of a violation of this section shall have his license to operate a motor vehicle suspended for a period of not more than one year. The court, in its discretion, may authorize any person convicted of a violation of this section the use of a restricted permit to operate a motor vehicle in accordance with the provisions of subsection D of § 16.1-278.9 or subsection E of § 18.2-271.1.

C. Any alcoholic beverages purchased in violation of this section shall be deemed contraband and forfeited to the Commonwealth in accordance with § 4.1-338.

[2] "Party Host Mom Set for Virginia Jail Term,", http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/08/AR2007060802795.html?hpid=moreheadlines and "Mother Reunited With Sons After Stint in Jail, " http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/24/AR2007112401214.html

[3] "Mother Gets 15 Days in Drinking Party for Kids," http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2011/apr/05/tdmet02-mother-gets-15-days-in-new-years-eve-drink-ar-950259/

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