Parents Face Penalties for Teen Drinking

It's time for proms, graduations, and parties as the school year draws to a close.   That has many parents wondering how to handle the issue of underage drinking. While some parents may allow teens to drink in their home,  legal experts say that could lead to serious penalties both civil and criminal. Gail Delaughter reports.

Austin attorney Dewey Brackin says there are some parents who don't have a problem with letting teenagers drink at their home.

"You know a lot of parents feel that they would rather have their kids, you know, at the house or at a supervised location, and do their partying there, because they don't have to worry about them driving or having to go pick them up." 

Brackin works with the alcoholic beverage industry on regulation issues, and he says Texas law is clear when it comes to alcohol and parental responsibility.  He says the law does allow minors to consume alcohol in the immediate presence of their parents or legal guardians, whether they're at home or in public. But when other kids are involved it's a different matter.

"So if the neighbor kids come over for a party, the nieces and nephews come over, and all the kids are consuming alcoholic beverages, then yes, there is potential civil liability if the kids were to become intoxicated and something bad happens."

That means a parent could be hit with a lawsuit if someone else's child is injured on their property while consuming alcohol. Brackin says the case would be judged on the standard of how a reasonable and prudent person would behave.

"You know, conceivably a plantiffs' lawyer could sue them for negligently  permitting minors to possess and consume alcoholic beverages, and that was approximate cause of damages suffered, then it would just be probably a general negligence cause of action under the homeowners' policy."

And what if there's an accident after the party?  Brackin says a homeowner could also be sued if they knew teens were drinking.

"If that child went out and killed themselves or some other third party, then I think there are probably several viable causes of action from a plantiff's perspective for that."

 Brackin says there are also criminal issues involved if an adult actually provides the alcohol that the kids consume.  It's a Class A misdemeanor, with penalties up to a year in jail and a 4000-dollar fine. 

Bio photo of Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

Gail Delaughter joined KUHF in October 2008 as Saturday morning news anchor and host. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Gail has extensive experience in Texas and Louisiana as a radio news reporter and morning show anchor and co-host...