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Who can be held responsible for a drunk driving accident?

We've got another month before this summer is just another memory and we start digging out the winter clothes to prepare for another Connecticut winter. In the meantime, there will be parties, barbeques and other social gatherings. Many will involve alcohol. So what is the responsibility of hosts to ensure that no one leaves their party drunk and harms or kills someone on the road?

Many of our readers may have heard the news reports about a North Carolina couple who faced charges of aiding and abetting the use of alcohol by minors at a wedding reception held at their home last summer. An 18-year-old young man died in a car accident while driving home from the party under the influence of alcohol. While the couple was found not guilty of all charges by a jury, they are still facing a civil suit by the teen's parents.

Jurors were shown numerous photos of the party. However, none showed the couple interacting with teens who appeared to be intoxicated. One juror noted that they couldn't determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the couple knew that there was underage drinking going on at the party.

No bartenders were charged for providing alcohol to minors. However, the couple's 19-year-old son was convicted of illegally purchasing alcohol. He was spared jail time after his attorney noted his client's academic achievements, lack of a criminal record and volunteer work.

Liability and criminal penalties for social hosts and "dram shops," or establishments like bars and restaurants that sell alcohol, vary by state. In Connecticut, the law states that anyone who is in "control over...any dwelling unit or private property" if they do so"recklessly or with criminal negligence permit." A person does not have to be aware that underage drinking is taking place or even present at the time.

All Connecticut residents should take care to help ensure that none of their guests get behind the wheel of a vehicle if there is any question about whether he or she can drive safely. Anyone who is charged with a crime related to drunk driving or underage drinking should seek legal guidance to help ensure that his or her rights are protected.

Source: WRAL.com, "Raleigh couple found not guilty of providing alcohol to minors," July 31, 2015

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