A social host is anyone who provides alcohol to others. Essentially that's anyone who's ever had a party or just had a few friends over. Social hosts can be subject to liability for serving alcohol to guests.
But it's technically not the act of serving that can cause a problem, and in California the law doesn't apply to just any guest. Social host laws are designed to solve a specific issue.
What lawmakers don't want is for underage people to get access to alcohol and then cause damage or injuries. That means people who serve under-21 guests can get in trouble.
California's social host law has several parts. It applies to adults who knowingly provide alcohol to people under 21.
If that person goes on to cause personal injury or property damage, and the alcohol was a contributing cause of the damage, the adult who provided the alcohol could be held liable.
That doesn't mean you'll go to jail for giving alcohol to a minor in your home. It's a civil law so if you're busted you would be required to pay for the damage caused. You won't be charged with a crime.
But that doesn't make social host liability any less serious. Medical bills and property damage can be very expensive, and your homeowner's insurance policy may not cover liquor liability.
A good way to avoid liability is to not serve alcohol to underage guests. It may make you an "uncool parent," but it's better than getting sued for providing alcohol.
Another good option is to limit the amount of alcohol you serve at parties and other social events. Not only will that limit the possibility that under-21 guests will get you in trouble, it also helps keep your other guests from being too drunk to drive later on.
The point of California's social host law isn't to punish you; it's to make sure victims of underage drinking accidents don't get left with unpaid bills. Better yet, you can help make sure the accident never happens in the first place.
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