Legal Professional?
Build Your Business

Social Host Alcohol Liability & the Drunk Driver

Hosting a party can take a lot of planning. You have to think about what food you are going to serve and what music you are going to play. But rarely do you think about whether one of your guests could become a drunk driver.

Although the law varies from state to state, social hosts can become liable, or responsible, for injuries caused by a drunk driver who became intoxicated at their party. If one of your guests is injured or causes injuries because he or she is drunk after leaving your party, you will want to contact a DUI defense lawyer to better understand the law regarding social host alcohol liability in your state.

Social Host & Drunk Driver Criminal Law

In general, there are two types of liability that could be placed on a social host for a drunk driver.

The first is criminal liability. If a social host is found to be criminally liable for a drunk driver, then the host could face fines or jail time.

In most states, criminal action is likely under two scenarios:

  • If the social host serves a minor at the party and then the minor gets into an accident, the social host will likely face criminal charges in connection with the accident. The seriousness of the charges will depend on the seriousness of any injuries sustained in the accident.
  • If a partygoer is visibly intoxicated but the host continues to serve this person, then the social host will likely face criminal charges if an accident occurs. Under the law, the social host should use discretion when serving guests who are already drunk. Otherwise, the host's actions may be considered reckless.

In addition, in many states, if minors have a party at the house of a parent and serve alcohol, the parents may be liable for any drunk driving accidents that occur. This is true even if the parents were not home at the time.

Social Host and Drunk Driver Civil Law

Not only can a social host be criminally liable for a drunk driver who gets into an accident after leaving their party, but they can also face civil actions.

If a guest gets into an accident after being over-served and is injured, the guest can sue you for his or her injuries. This is especially true if the host was reckless when serving the drunk driver. A host is reckless if he or she does not use common sense when serving someone who is visibly intoxicated.

Other people who are injured in a traffic accident may also sue a party host. This means that if the drunk driver hits another car and causes injury to its passengers, they may attempt to hold the host at least partially liable for their injuries.

Preventing Drunk Driving Accidents

There are certain precautions you can take to ensure your guests don't drive drunk. After all, you want your guests to have fun. You don't want them to get into an accident or get a DUI, which can result in jail time, fines, or DUI probation.

First, ensure that no minors are being served. If there are guests at your party whom you do not know and you suspect them of being minors, you are completely within your rights to ask to see their identification.

Also, you could host a party at a bar or a restaurant. This will place the responsibility to serve on trained servers.

Do not encourage binge drinking or overdrinking at your party. And if you think someone may have had too much to drink, immediately stop serving him or her. Also, be sure to offer to call a cab for anyone who does not have a designated driver.

If you must, you can take away your guest's keys and insist that they sleep at your home. That way, in the morning, they will have sobered up and can safely drive home.