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Parents are legally responsible for preventing underage DUIs

As spring break approaches, many Connecticut parents are headed off on vacation with teens or college students in tow or perhaps are staying in town and doing some entertaining at home. Spring break is obviously one of those times of year when drinking and driving, particularly among young people, is a concern for law enforcement

It's essential for parents to know that they can be held legally responsible, criminally and civilly, for an underage driver's DUI and more tragic results that can result from driving under the influence. This is the case whether the child involved is yours or someone else's.

State laws vary, but Connecticut laws are clear. It's illegal to knowingly let anyone under 21 possess alcohol in your home or on private property. You have a legal responsibility to prevent them from doing so. You can also be held both civilly and criminally liable for any damage or harm done as a result.

Connecticut law also includes something called the "family car doctrine." That means that the owner of a vehicle is liable for any harm the driver does unless the owner can prove that the driver was not authorized to be behind the wheel. That can be difficult to do if a parent bought the car for a child or even if the child had access to the keys and regularly drove the car.

Most parents feel safer when their kids are entertaining at their house rather than partying at a friend's house and driving home. However, that requires being vigilant to ensure that no one is consuming alcohol, whether they got it from your house or brought it along. Even if you have a "dry" house, many young people are adept at sneaking in their own liquor. It's essential to watch for signs of inebriation and to ensure that no one gets behind the wheel while under the influence.

It's also important to do your best to ensure that if your child is at someone else's home or private event, such as at a country club, the adults in charge there are just as vigilant about supervision. While the legal ramifications of underage drinking can be significant, the true costs can be far higher.

Source: FindLaw, "Can Parents Be Held Liable for a Child's Underage DUI?," Christopher Coble, Esq., accessed March 10, 2016

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