This time of year brings lots of opportunities for teens to celebrate. Unfortunately, many times these celebrations end in tragedy because the party was fueled by alcohol provided by an adult. This year the Burnett County Prevention Coalition wants teens and their parents to celebrate prom and graduation safely.
It is illegal for adults to purchase, pour or provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 who isn’t their child or spouse. Adults can be criminally prosecuted for hosting underage parties and can be liable for injuries and property damage that may result from providing alcohol to teens. Even though parents can provide “permission” for another adult to purchase, pour or provide alcohol to their children, doesn’t make it safe. No matter what, underage drinking is hazardous to a teenagers health and safety. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, those under the age of 21 who drink alcohol are more likely to:
- Engage in risky behaviors- those who frequently binge drink have a higher chance of using other drugs.
- Get bad grades- children who use alcohol have higher rates of academic problems and poor school performance compared to non-drinkers.
- Make bad decisions- drinking lowers inhibitions and increases the chance that children will engage in risky behaviors.
- Have health problems- young people who drink are more likely to have health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders.
- Become alcohol dependent- youth who begin drinking before age 14 have a 41% chance of becoming alcohol dependent at some point during their lifetime, compared to the 10% risk attached to youth abstaining from alcohol until age 21.
When an adult hosts an underage party, he/she could end up facing more than just a civil penalty. For example, if an underage teenager consumes alcohol at his/her home and later gets into a drunk driving accident resulting in someone else’s injuries, he/she could be charged with a Class H felony. A Class H felony in Wisconsin is severe, it can include up to 6 years in jail, and/or fines up to $10,000 and other consequences. If the same scenario were to take an even more tragic turn, resulting in the death of another person as a result of the accident, he/she could be charged with a Class G felony for having supplied alcohol to the intoxicated underage driver. A Class G felony in Wisconsin is even more severe and can include up to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine up to $25,000 and other costs and consequences.
Penalties for violations across the State of Wisconsin can vary but, fines related to underage drinking can start at $250 and increase quickly. If a business owner or employee allows an unaccompanied underage person into an area of the business that is designated specifically for alcohol sales, they could face a fine of $500. The fines aren’t limited to the business either; the underage person could face a fine of $250-$500, as well as suspension of their driver’s license. Anyone caught selling alcohol to someone under the age of 21 who is not accompanied by an adult of legal drinking age could be charged $500 and could face jail time. The business’s liquor license could also be suspended or revoked.
Here are a few tips to help adults avoid being a party to underage drinking:
- Don’t be afraid to be the bad guy. Taking a tough stand on alcohol use can help youth say no when they are pressured to drink with their friends.
- Talk with other adults about hosting alcohol-free youth events. Unity creates a tough enforceable message.
- Set a positive example. If you host a party, always serve alternative non-alcoholic beverages and do not let anyone drink and drive.
- Stay home if a teen is hosting a party in your home. Observe the activities and confiscate any alcohol that may be brought by party goers.
- Report underage drinking to the police immediately.
If you’d like to get involved with the Parents Who Host Lose the Most campaign, please contact Tessa Anderson at 715-349-8878 or Officer Bridget Getts at 715-566-2519.
Submitted by: Tessa Anderson, Drug Court Coordinator
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