Social Host Ordinances Explained

Underage drinking is a problem for society, so Virginia law has placed the onus on parents and homeowners to stop underage drinking in their homes. In 2011, Virginia passed HB 1496, which makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to allow children under the age of 21 to drink under an adult’s supervision. It can result in up to 12 months in jail for each individual child.

Underage Drinking Stats

By making the homeowner criminally responsible for underage drinking on their premises, the Commonwealth hopes to cut down on drunk driving crashes. According to MADD, more than 1,100 crashes were caused by underage drunk drivers in 2011. If these teens don’t have a place to go to drink, the thinking says, then they won’t get drunk.

The problem with this law, however, is that is can be difficult for parents to “know” if children are drinking on their property. For instance, a child might have some friends over and they go to the basement where the parent does not disturb them. The parent might think the kids are just watching movies, but in reality they are drinking. Because this parent SHOULD have known the kids were drinking, they may need a lawyer should another parent call the police.