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Am I liable if I give alcohol to a minor and someone is hurt?

Many people in Schenectady and elsewhere don’t think twice about providing alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age. After all, everyone does it, right? Are the consequences really that serious for hosting a party for teenagers or buying them alcohol?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, it is illegal in the state of New York to knowingly furnish alcohol to minors, or to do so when you have a reason to believe any of them are underage. This “reasonable cause” could include hosting a college party at your home, where some of the guests don’t look old enough to be out of high school. Or, you might work at a convenience store and have a feeling that the person who just bought a case of beer had a false ID card, but you sold him the alcohol anyway.

If an underage person gets intoxicated and causes an injury or damage as a result of alcohol you provided, you could be held legally responsible. For example, you might have thrown a graduation party, and one of the teenage guests got into a drunk driving accident on the way home, which resulted in several people being injured. Since you were the one who provided the drinks, you could be liable for the injuries, as well as the expenses caused by property damage.

If, however, the driver who caused the accident was over the legal drinking limit, the responsibility would not be yours – even if you were the one who purchased the alcohol. It is always wise, however, to make responsible decisions regarding alcohol and refuse to give any to those you are not absolutely certain are over 21. This information should not replace a lawyer’s advice.

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