Colorado Social Host Liability and Underage Drinking

It is something that has happened for generations. Kids and their friends sneak into their parents’ liquor cabinets and drink their alcohol. In some cases, some parents even provide alcohol for their kids and their kids’ friends. Many parents believe that as long as the kids are being responsible and staying in, it is better to have them drink at home with their friends than risk drinking and driving. However, issues arise when one of those kids decides to leave while intoxicated and injures him or herself or another person. In such cases, parents that provided alcoholic beverages to the minor that caused injury could be held civilly liable for damages related to the injury.

The Social Host Liability Law

Most people are familiar with the basic idea of a dram shop law. A dram shop law, which most states have, is a law that makes a business that sells alcoholic beverages to someone that is obviously intoxicated liable for damages that result from doing so. Colorado’s dram shop law, found in C.R.S. §12-47-801, not only covers business that sell alcohol but also includes provisions that cover social hosts. The applicable language of the statute from subsection 4(a) is:

“No social host who furnishes any alcohol beverage is civilly liable to nay injured individual or his or her estate for any injury to such individual or damage to any property suffered, including action for wrongful death, because of the intoxication of any person due to the consumption of such alcohol beverages, except when it is proven that the social host knowingly served any alcohol beverage to such person who was under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly provided the person under the age of twenty-one a place to consume an alcohol beverage.”

Other provisions within the statute require any civil suit filed under to be commenced within one year of an injury and limit damages to $150,000.

Basically, this means that if you provide alcohol to a minor or provide minors a place in which to consume alcohol and one of the minor injures or kills another  or damages the property of another  while intoxicated from the consumption of alcohol, you can be held liable for injury to a third person or damages to property. Provisions within the law prohibit the estate of the minor that caused injury or damage from seeking any compensation from you, but the family or estate of a minor’s victim may do so. So, you can be held liable for damages resulting from a minor that receives a DUI after you have provided that minor with alcohol or a place to consume alcohol.

Legal Assistance with Alcohol-Related Charges

While social host liability is a civil matter, meaning no criminal charges come from a civil suit filed under it, you may be facing other charges related to alcohol that can carry severe criminal consequences. If you are facing alcohol-related charges, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney that focuses their practice on working with clients facing similar charges. Contact the Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation where you can discuss more about the circumstances of your case and find out more information about what options might be available in your defense.

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(image courtesy of Robert Mathews)