“Parents Face Jail Time For Kids’ Drinking Parties”

Following a lobbying campaign by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 28 states (up from 18 seven years ago) now assign criminal penalties to property owners when underage drinking occurs on their property, with no need to show that the parents or other owners actually furnished alcohol, and whether or not any accident or other injury resulted. [ABA Journal] Liability is sometimes based on hazy “should have known” or negligence concepts, and a MADD brochure (PDF) explains that criminal liability can extend to “Parents away from home when their teens host a party; Parents who are present but deny knowledge of drinking on their property; Owners and/or tenants of rural property; Owners of vacant property.”

In 2005 we covered a Virginia appeals court’s ruling upholding the sentencing of a father and mother to 27 months in jail — originally eight years, before a sentence reduction — for allowing drinking at a 16-year-old’s birthday party. (& Alkon)


  • Are those “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” on some kind of dope? How come that these groups have so much power? There must be some structural reason for such craziness.

    On the other hand, we do teach kids to stand up and fight for what they believe is right. Maybe we should teach them to think about what they want first, reason, and fight only if that thing is found reasonable. That could end up in smarter next generation.

  • I am of two minds about this. Parents should be responsible for their children, but are, as a practical matter, unable to exercise the control that comes with that responsibility. In addition, vaguely worded laws are a bugaboo of mine.


  • In a former life as a high school teacher, I sponsored the SADD (Students Against Driving Drunk) chapter. We emphasized helping your friends make good choices, and such things as taking away the keys. I don’t know that I, in good conscience, could sponsor what this group has become now- modern day prohibitionists.

  • Carrie Nation is alive and well at MADD, which is no longer about teens and drunk driving, but taking the nation back to prohibition. Apparently they haven’t gotten to the chapter in their history book about what what a failure that it was…

  • @aaaa: How do they come to have such power? From Wikepedia:

    According to the Obama-Coburn Federal Funding Accountability Transparency Act of 2006, MADD received $56,814 in funds from the federal government in fiscal year 2000, and a total of $9,593,455 between fiscal years 2001 and 2006.[16]

    In 1994, Money magazine reported that telemarketers raised over $38 million for MADD, keeping nearly half of it in fees. This relationship continues to date.[17]

    2001, Worth magazine listed MADD as one of its “10 worst charities”.

    In 2005, USA Today reported that the American Institute of Philanthropy was reducing MADD from a “C” to a “D” in its ratings. The Institute noted that MADD categorizes much of its fundraising expenses as “educational expenses”, and that up to 58% of its revenue was expended on what the Institute considered fund-raising and management.[18]

    Charity Navigator rated MADD at 36.72 on its charity rating scale for the 2006/2007 fiscal year, based on it efficiency and capacity.[19] MADD reported that it spent 16% of its budget on fundraising that year.[19] Charity Navigator reported MADD’s total revenue for the year as $49 million (US).[19]

    In 2009 MADD took in $41,006,038 and paid salaries of $20,537,936, over half of their income.[20]


  • In order to maintain its fundraising, and public interest in its operations, any nonprofit must have an “issue.” Once one issue is resolved (e.g. in the environmental context,Westway, the Manhattan roadway/development project which was sucessfully blocked by a tagteam made up of public interest lawyers, environmental organizations, citizens, and politicians) the nonprofit must find another. MADD is essentially a one-issue operation, thus once it achieves strict DUI/DWI laws in a jurisdiction (which it has done by advocating increasingly restrictive BAC levels), it must come up with a proposal for a new restriction related to alcohol use. This is it.

  • John,
    Don’t forget the fees that MADD gets for their Victim Impact Panels and other farces that are made mandatory in plea bargains and as a part of sentencing. The majority of these are done by volunteers, but, MADD gets the fees assessed to the attendees.

  • Your children belong to the State, and the State will decide what is good for them.

  • @aaaa
    “Are those “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” on some kind of dope? How come that these groups have so much power? There must be some structural reason for such craziness. ”

    Lobbying money, that comes from involuntary contributions from the people convicted of the crimes that they lobby for.

  • These laws are just unbelievable. What happens in the privacy of my home is simply none of anyone’s business. How are kids supposed to learn how to drink responsibly, if they are not allowed to try the stuff under supervision?

    As one comment on the article points out: it isn’t going to end here. If the government can tell us when and to whom we may serve alcohol, we may also expect them to tell us when and how we may prepare food. Entertaining for business? Perhaps the health department should inspect your kitchen. What’s business anyway – I mean, any gathering of people may involve some networking. Perhaps all private kitchens should be inspected and licensed…

  • […] Another brick in the growing “strict liability” wall. […]