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Reality Check: Of the Cambridge middle school students who reported drinking, 13% took it from their home without anyone knowing, 17% got it from an adult other than a parent, 17% got it from another underage student, and 25% got it from a parent.

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A survey by the American Medical Association shows that underage youth obtain alcohol easily and often: many times the source of their alcohol is their own parents.

Parents may think they’d rather have their kids and their kids’ friends drinking in their home, but Social Host Laws prohibit underage drinking on your property even if you do not provide the alcohol.

In Massachusetts, parents AND their children may face:

Criminal Prosecution

As a parent, you can be hit with criminal penalties – as much as a $2,000 fine and a year of jail time – for knowingly giving alcohol to an underage person, other than your children or grandchildren, in your home. Your child can also face these criminal penalties for giving alcohol to an underage friend in the family home.

A Civil Lawsuit

If you host a social gathering and give too much alcohol to a guest (whether that guest is underage or not) and that guest harms someone else as a result (for instance, by getting behind the wheel and causing an accident), you can be sued for a potentially huge sum of money to compensate the victim or, if the victim was killed, the victim’s family. Your child can face this so-called social host liability as well.

This information was adapted from an article by Katharine M. Felluca, an attorney at the law firm of Clark, Hunt, Ahern & Embry in Cambridge. The information presented in this section should neither be construed as formal legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship.

Read the law yourself