By John Roxon, Attorney

I am reminded of the fast approach of graduation, because my son will be graduating from high school in two months (and we are very proud of him). But with graduation approaching, it is important to remember the dangers of “excessive “ celebration. All of us have heard adults say “kids are going to drink and party and I would rather have them do it at our place than out in the woods” “Kids”, as used here, refers to those under the age of 21.

Aside from the fact that this sets an extremely poor example by encouraging kids to break the law, this attitude sets up both the adults and kids for serious criminal and possibly civil liability.

Possessing or consuming alcohol by anyone under 21 is punishable by a fine, typically assessed at $260 to $465, and/or 30 days in jail, plus mandatory completion of an alcohol prevention/intervention program. It is even possible that all present may each be charged with ‘constructive possession’, even those not actually holding or consuming alcohol. The penalties are the same for all.

There is also the possibility of losing eligibility for any State-funded education grants or scholarships, such as Life Scholarships, for violation of alcohol-related laws.

For those underage with those fake IDs, the penalties are also steep. For example, using a fake ID to purchase alcohol carries a typical fine of $260 to $465 and/or 30 days in jail; and altering a driver’s license leads to a fine of $5,250 and/or six months in jail. The consequences of even a first offense DUI for underage drinkers is very steep, as you can lose your drivers license for at least three months, even with a BAC of .02%. There goes the “I only had one beer “ defense.

For all the ‘cool’ parents out there, the penalty for giving alcohol to anyone under 21, the fines are also significant. For large parties, these offenses can be “stacked”, meaning a person can be charged and convicted of a separate offense for each underage person the adult furnishes with alcohol. Buying alcohol for minors has the same penalties as giving or furnishing alcohol, so if you encounter a really zealous officer or prosecutor, you might even get hit with two separate charges for each minor partier.

And of course, if one of your child’s underage friends leaves your party and harms or kills someone or himself in a car accident, you are civilly liable if the alcohol you provided is a cause of the injury or death based on a 2005 South Carolina Supreme Court case. Is it really worth jeopardizing the future of your family, or someone else’s family, for a party?

Congratulations if you have a child graduating this year. Please make sure in years to come that you only remember graduation day for graduation, not tragedy. Have a safe and happy day.

If you or a loved one has been harmed in an accident involving a drunk driver in South Carolina, contact an attorney at Joye Law Firm at (877) 941-2615 or use our online contact form.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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