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Summer months come and go quickly. If you haven't already been soaking up some sun in the park this summer with hot food on the grill and a cold adult beverage in your hand, you've probably got a plan to do so soon. While many people have been searching the grilling ordinances for their local parks -- after learning that their neighbors are all too happy to call 911 on a charcoal grill in the "non-charcoal" section of the park -- they may not be as studiously reading their local alcohol statutes.
So before you load the cooler up with some cans and bottles of your favorite boozy beverage, here are a few things to consider.
Be aware that there are some public spaces that have blanket bans on booze. Some national parks and monuments, state beaches, and city parks and playgrounds may prohibit alcohol possession and consumption entirely, may limit liquor to certain months, or might require special permits or restrict consumption to specific locations. Start by looking up the laws at your party location.
Just about every municipality has some sort of open container ordinance that criminalizes drinking in public. Open container laws can vary widely from their content to penalties and enforcement, and how much trouble you get in may depend on how much trouble you're causing. Many officers are happy to look the other way as long as partygoers are well-behaved.
Just as many cookouts are family affairs, parents can be charged with their own crimes if their children are drinking under age. Parents who knowingly furnish teens with alcohol, or should have known they were drinking while under their care, may be arrested. One cool family who hosted a high school party with booze got slammed with 44 counts of contributing to a minor's delinquency, and another couple were looking at 43 counts of unlawfully dealing with children. So not only might you be on the hook for your own kid's drinking, but their friends can get you into hot water as well.
Social host liability dictates that a person who hosts a social gathering and serves alcohol can be held responsible for the injuries of third parties caused by an intoxicated guest during or after the party. The penalties can be both civil and criminal, and may not be limited just because the party was in a local park and not on your private property.
So, before you start handing out beers along with BBQ at your cookout in the park this summer, you might want to check with an attorney about local laws and liability issues.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.