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Ashland - Local Town Pages

Ashland Commits to Safety This Holiday Season: Learn About the Social Host Law

By Cynthia Whitty

Ashland’s Decisions at Every Turn (DAET) Coalition and the Ashland Police Department (APD) are affirming their commitment to safety this holiday season.

This month communities across the country are observing National Impaired Driving Month to recognize this time of year during which impaired driving crashes are among the highest. By raising awareness about the importance of each of our actions to prevent impaired driving, DAET and the APD believe that we all can help keep our roads, our neighborhoods, and our families safe. 

The APD holds community safety as its greatest priority. DAET is a volunteer organization whose mission is to prevent youth substance use and to promote healthy decision-making. Together, these organizations are dedicated to supporting all in our community. They want residents to remember that the use of any substance can alter judgment and ability to drive safely, putting the driver and others at risk. They encourage parents and other adults with influence on the lives of young people to remind them that underage alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use is unhealthy and against the law. 

APD Chief Richard Briggs said, “Especially at this time of year, we want to remind parents and teens that the purpose of the Social Host Law is to prevent underage alcohol use and the potential negative consequences for teens, families, and the broader community that can result from providing alcohol to minors.”

“Social host liability” is a legal concept that Massachusetts and some other states follow, allowing a host of a party or other gathering to be held liable in certain situations where a guest becomes intoxicated and ends up causing an injury to a third party.

“While we are moving closer to being able to fully celebrate our traditions and customs this year,” Kristin French, LCSW, DAET, said, “we ask that as each family chooses how to recognize this holiday season, we hope that they are generous in community spirit and work with friends and neighbors to prioritize decisions that protect the safety and well-being of Ashland youth.”

What is the Social Host Law?

What is a Social Host? A Social Host is anyone (adult or minor) who is in control of the premises and who furnishes alcohol or allows it to be consumed on those premises.

Am I breaking the law if I allow my child’s underage guests to consume alcohol in my home? Yes. The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21. It is against the law to serve or provide alcohol to underage guests or to allow them to drink alcohol in your home or on other property you control. If you do, you may be prosecuted criminally. The penalty is a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both.

Can I be sued if my child or an underage guest at my home drinks alcohol and injures someone? Yes. You may be financially responsible if your child or underage guest injures another person (or himself) after having consumed alcohol, if you controlled the supply of the alcohol, made it available, or served it. Civil judgments can be for millions of dollars.

What if my child allows underage guests to drink or possess alcohol at my home or other property I control? You or your child may be charged criminally. For you to be found guilty under the Social Host Law, the Commonwealth must prove that you or your child knowingly or intentionally supplied, gave, provided, or allowed minors to possess alcohol at your home or other property you controlled. You or your child may also be sued civilly.

Does the Social Host Law apply if I rent a hotel room for my daughter’s party? Yes, since you control the hotel room, the Social Host Law applies. 

Will my homeowner’s policy cover the costs of litigation and any judgment against me or my child? You may or may not be covered, especially if the underage drinker causes injury or death by use of an automobile. Many insurance policies do not cover situations where criminal conduct is involved.