As a parent in Virginia, you have many responsibilities. You are responsible for making sure your child is safe, has a place to live, enough to eat, and goes to school. What you may not realize is that you can also be held responsible if your child – or even someone else’s child – consumes alcohol underage. That responsibility can be not only financial, but criminal.
In a number of Virginia cases in recent years, parents have been charged with the crime of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” where a group of kids gathered at their home have been drinking.
It is against state law for persons under 21 years of age to possess or consume alcohol. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. Purchasing for and/or giving alcohol to a minor is also illegal. In addition to other penalties, some alcohol-related statutes include losing your driver’s license for up to a year.
It may make sense to you as a parent that the kids are safer drinking at your house in a controlled environment that they are running around unsupervised. You may believe that if no one is driving a car, there is no harm. However, Virginia law doesn’t see it that way. You don’t have to buy the beer to run afoul of this law – you just have to let it happen. And whether or not you “let it happen” is ultimately decided by the Court.
If the police show up at your house, it is usually best not to argue with the officer or even try to explain – anything you say can be used against you. The parent’s “knowledge” is often proven by what they said to the police at the scene.