Court: Parents Are Legally Responsible for Kids' Drinking

If they've 'willfully' and 'knowingly' provided the booze
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2016 4:26 PM CDT

(Newser) – In what one attorney calls a "wake-up call to the so-called cool parents," Maryland adults who provide alcohol to underage kids can be held legally responsible if those kids harm themselves or others, the Washington Post reports. According to the Baltimore Sun, adults in Maryland could already be criminally charged with providing alcohol to minors, but Tuesday's ruling from the state's Court of Appeals adds—in the words of another lawyer—"one more disincentive" to parents thinking about letting their kids and their kids' friends drink at their home. “Underage persons are not solely responsible for drinking alcohol on an adult's property because they are not competent to handle the effects of this potentially dangerous substance," the Christian Science Monitor quotes the court's decision as saying.

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The ruling stems from two recent cases. In one, an 18-year-old driver hit a woman walking her dog after drinking at a party where an adult was tending bar. In another, a 17-year-old got into a fatal crash after drinking alcohol believed to have been provided by an adult. A MADD executive director praised Tuesday's ruling, saying it's a myth that underage drinking with a parent's supervision is safe; the only safety comes from not letting kids drink at all. In order for an adult to be held legally responsible, they must have "knowingly" and "willfully" provided alcohol to people who are under 21. More than 30 other states have similar laws on the books. (Read more underage drinking stories.)

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