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Are You Legally Allowed to Provide Alcohol to Your Minor Child at Home?

You may reason that, since your children have drunk alcohol with friends, they would be a lot safer if they did their drinking at home. But cities have created social host ordinances prohibiting adults from providing alcohol to minors, even in their own home.

Minors Consume AlcoholJeff Lake, father of 18-year-old Olivia Lake, was arrested recently for throwing a Playboy-themed party in Poway, Calif. to celebrate Olivia’s 18th birthday. There were reportedly “up to 200 teens” in attendance when the police arrived at the party. Many of the teens were allegedly drinking and, in keeping with the Playboy Mansion theme, scantily clad.1

Lake was charged with violating a Poway social host ordinance. If he is convicted, he could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.2

Many California municipalities have enacted social host ordinances to discourage underage drinking. Studies have found that although law enforcement has cracked down on liquor sales to minors, many underage drinkers obtain liquor at home or at a friend’s house.

California Social Host Ordinances

Social host ordinances in California generally hold the adult in charge of the premises responsible if underage persons are allowed to drink on the premises and the adult:

  • Knows or should have known the drinking is taking place, and
  • Fails to take reasonable action to stop it

Social host ordinances do not generally allow the police to enter your property without a search warrant. However, if police discover that underage drinking is taking place on your property, they can give you a citation or arrest you.

Penalties vary based on each city’s ordinance. If you are cited for a first offense infraction in Laguna Beach, you will have to attend a parent education class. In Poway, where Jeff Lake was arrested, you could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Can I Be Sued in Civil Court for Violating a Social Host Ordinance?

If you serve alcohol to a minor at your house and that person sustains any injuries, or dies while under the influence, you could be held liable for damages in civil court. California Civil Code Section 1714(d) states that you can be held liable if you furnish alcohol to a minor person at your residence and the alcohol consumption is the proximate cause of their injury or death.3

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

Criminal Defense AttorneyIf you or somebody you love has been cited or arrested for providing alcohol to a minor or any social host ordinance, you should speak to an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney immediately. Our attorneys have over 35 years of experience successfully defending clients accused of crimes in Southern California. We can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Our offices are located in Los Angeles, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, West Covina and Victorville. No matter where you live, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney nearby to help you.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.


1. [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/07/teens-playboy-mansion-party-arrests_n_6431566.html ]
2. [http://alcoholpolicypanel.org/support_files/PowaySHOFAQ_08272012.pdf ]
3. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=CIV&division=3.&title=&part=3.&chapter=&article= ]

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.