The New York Criminal Law Blog

Social Host Criminal Liability: Parents Arrested for Teen Keggar

We can't say we told you so, probably because we didn't actually tell you so. But we kinda did. Previously, on our personal injury blog, we covered potential civil liability for parent-sponsored underage drinking. Now, thanks to a parent-sponsored underage drinking party on the Rockaway Peninsula, we're bringing the topic back.

But this time, it's criminal.

Anthony and Claire Reyes were the parents arrested for being social hosts, reports the New York Times. The party hosted at least 40 underage private high school students, including the couple's children. The party ended with two teens being taken to the hospital after consuming too much alcohol, and two parents being taken to the police station.

The episode has sparked mixed reactions from the community. Some understand the parents' stance, preferring to keep supervision over their children while they drink instead of having their children do it elsewhere.

While the court of public opinion is debating whether the parents' acts were proper, the police have no doubt. They have charged the parents with 43 counts of unlawfully dealing with children and 10 counts each of endangering a child under 17.

Unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree covers a few different scenarios, including serving alcohol to minors. Exceptions exist for one's own children or for classroom settings. Otherwise, it is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail per charge.

The relevant provision of the other endangerment charge provides that someone is guilty when he or she "knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less than seventeen years old or directs or authorizes such child to engage in an occupation involving a substantial risk of danger to his life or health."

Throwing a kegger where two kids end up in the hospital is probably what the law means in this case by "acting in a manner injurious to the physical ... welfare of a child." They certainly seem to have authorized the underage drinking party, if the news reports are accurate. The endangerment charges are also class A misdemeanors, carrying up to a year in jail per charge.

If convicted of all of the charges, each parent faces up to fifty-three years in jail. Obviously, the prosecutor isn't going to push for the maximum penalty or the maximum charges. However, the parents are probably facing at least some jail time. Meanwhile, the debate over the morality of throwing these parties will probably shift to the criminal and civil risks to the parents versus the danger of unsupervised underage drinking.

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