Disclaimer: The information, articles, and tips portrayed on this blog, while based on research, do not constitute medical advice. The opinions expressed are meant to educate and inform, but not to dictate lifestyle choices or personal beliefs. These articles are meant to provoke thought on issues surrounding college health and to inform the Hopkins community of healthy information and resources.


House Parties and the Law


Have you ever seen someone under the age of 21 at a house party where alcohol was being served?  Did you see those people drinking the alcohol?  Not so uncommon, right?  In reality, this could happen in all sorts of situations.  From parties off campus to parties in your hometown (where parents/older adults might be there, too).

But when something goes wrong in relation to one of these parties, whether it's the police showing up and spotting the underage drinkers or party-goers injuring themselves- the question is asked, who is responsible?

Based on case histories, it would seem that the party hosts are responsible.  Does that seem fair?  Let's look at some situations and you be the judge.

Case history 1:

A 19 year old female was at a party off campus.  She played a few rounds of beer pong, and lost terribly.  The result was a high BAC with a low ability to function with a BAC level of .16 (2x the legal limit to drive).  She decided to leave the party and on her way to her next destination and sadly, was struck and killed by a passing car.

Imagine you were asked to decide who would was to blame in this case- who would you say?

In this case, the hosts of the party were 2 of the 5 people held accountable.  They were both under 21, as well.  If you were sitting on the jury, how would you feel about holding these two accountable?

How do you think you might feel differently as a family member?

Case history 2:

A 19 year old female was at an off campus party.  At the party, she needed to be taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.  The hosts of the party were charged for providing alcohol to a minor.  Their punishments included a 30-day sentence on home electronic monitoring, $1000 fine, and they were not allowed to "possess or consume alcohol for the next 12 months".

Should party hosts be responsible for the behavior of their guests, including anything from rowdiness to near fatal underage drinking?

Case history 3:
An 18  year old male was at an off campus party at a fraternity house.  He was pledging the fraternity with a number of other students.  He and the other pledges were told to drink all of the alcohol they were given.  They were told they could not leave the room they were in until they completed the task.  After drinking heavily, he stated to the others that he wasn't feeling well and he passed out.  The fraternity members carried him to another room in the hopes that he would sober up.  Three hours later, he was found unconscious and not breathing.  911 was called, but it was too late and he passed away due to alcohol poisoning.  He was found to have a .36 BAC and had suffered severe brain damage as a result of the alcohol use.

If you were this young man's family, how would you want to proceed?  Would you go to court and if so, who would be the defendants?

These are not easy cases to think about, and unfortunately, each one is real.  The law is tough, but losing someone you care about is tougher.  If you see someone with signs of alcohol poisoning, or perhaps someone that could use some help, consider ways that you can help- whether it be calling 911 or HERO, or helping them get somewhere safely.  You could save a life, and also save someone the headache of legal issues.