Parents and underage drinking: what you need to know

Minors Alcohol WI
If you have a teenager, chances are you’re gearing up for prom and graduation season.  But if alcohol becomes part of those special events, both you and your teen stand to get in serious legal trouble.
It’s not uncommon for parents to host those celebrations, reasoning that if their kids will be partying at least they’ll be doing it in a safe, supervised environment. That’s the sort of reasoning, though, that can cause some of the biggest problems.
Here’s what you need to know about underage drinking in Wisconsin:
  • An underage person can drink in the presence of their parents or legal guardians or adult spouse, if married, if the adult gives permission. That can be at home or in a restaurant or tavern. Restaurants and taverns may refuse to serve minors if they wish or require parents to sign a form releasing the institution of liability.
  • It is never legal for adults to provide alcohol to or permit a minor to drink unless it is their own child or a child for whom they have legal guardianship. Fines for a first offense may be up to $500 per underage drinker.
  • The law says you may not procure for, sell or give alcohol to any underage person not accompanied by their parents, so if you want to host a party where you know alcohol will be involved, invite the parents, get their consent to serve their child and make sure each minors’ parent or legal guardian is present throughout the party.

Of course the best advice is to host an alcohol-free party. If it’s a party that involves adults and you want to have alcohol for them, take care in how you serve it. Serve all alcohol, such as beer, in marked containers, and require minors to drink only from clear glasses or soda cans, so you can be sure they’re not imbibing.

If the legal implications don’t have you convinced, consider these facts from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention:
  • The human brain continues to develop until a person is around age 25. Underage drinking may impair neurological development, causing youth to make irresponsible decisions, encounter memory lapses, or slow neural impulses.
  • Underage drinking cost society $68 billion in 2007, or $1 for every drink consumed. This includes medical bills, income loss, and costs from pain and suffering.
  • In 2009, 19 percent of drivers ages 16–20 who were involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration over the legal adult limit (0.08).
  • Alcohol use encourages risky sexual behavior. Youth who drink may be more likely to have sex, become pregnant, or contract sexually transmitted illnesses.

When you consider the legal consequences as well as the social and health implications, underage drinking is nothing to celebrate.


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