Living in sunny Florida, you may soon be finding yourself attending and hosting parties. However, with all the revelry and festivity surrounding warmer temperatures, there’s also an uptick in alcohol-related accidents and injuries. If you’re the host of a party, you may wonder if it’s your responsibility when a guest suffers an injury in your home or leaves your party intoxicated and causes an accident.
These situations fall under Florida’s “dram shop” and “social host liability” laws, which provide protection and guidelines to deal with these circumstances. Social host liability broadly refers to a party host being held legally responsible for the actions of intoxicated guests. Questions about social host liability often come up in cases involving DUI accidents but can come into play during any accident-related incident. In some limited and unambiguous circumstances, a party host can face criminal charges if they supply alcohol to an individual who breaks the law.
Understanding Florida’s Dram Shop and Social Responsibility Laws
In Florida, “dram shop laws” create legal liability for bar operators and those who host events and parties where alcohol is served. Under these laws, if someone leaves a bar, restaurant, catered reception, or graduation party and causes an accident while driving under the influence, the injury victims may sue not only the drunk driver but also the person who served the drinks that got them drunk. However, it’s important to note that this only applies under certain unique and narrow circumstances.
Florida’s dram shop laws’ primary focus is on businesses and applies to any business operation selling or serving alcoholic beverages. However, it also affects party hosts who serve alcohol to those under the age of 21 or known alcoholics. These are considered to be social hosts with legal duties.
Florida Statute 768.125, which defines the state’s dram shop and social host liability laws, establishes a party host’s duty to their guests in the following terms:
“A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.”
Serving Alcohol to Minors
Serving alcohol to individuals under the age of 21 is against the law in the United States. A social host who serves alcohol to a minor or allows minors to consume alcohol on their premises may face criminal charges, especially if they allow them to drive afterward. It’s also important to note that, depending on Florida state jurisdiction, there may be exceptions to the minor law, including the service of alcohol to minors in family settings or for religious reasons.
Serving Alcohol to Alcoholics
Party hosts can potentially be liable for damages caused by intoxicated guests they’ve served if that person is someone “habitually addicted” to alcohol or generally known to be an alcoholic. To convict you, the state must prove that you acted “willfully”—not merely negligently—when serving alcohol to intoxicated guests with a known history of alcohol abuse.
If some other factor influenced the accident, such as uneven flooring or dangerous conditions in the home, the injured person might be able to file a premises liability claim against the host. So, while a party guest can’t typically sue because they got drunk at your party and suffered an injury, they may be able to pursue a case against you if they suffered an injury after falling through a broken step on your porch, for instance.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in West Palm Beach
If you’re a party host who’s been arrested based on the irresponsible or negligent actions of a guest, get in touch with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in West Palm Beach as soon as possible. For legal assistance, look no further than The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel.
Attorney Brian Gabriel has served the community of West Palm Beach for more than 30 years as a criminal defense attorney. He understands the complexities that are often involved in dram shop and social host liability cases and can help protect your reputation and future. After an arrest, you can be assured that you’re in good hands and that attorney Brian Gabriel will fight for your rights. Call (561) 622-5575 or complete a contact form for a free consultation.