Maine Dramshop Laws & Responsibility of Social Hosts and Bartenders

Allowing teenagers to drink alcohol in your home doesn’t make you a “cool” parent or friend. Neither is it particularly smart because there is a good chance you could be jailed or face civil liability if one of those teens goes on to hurt themselves or someone else after drinking alcohol you supplied.

Just ask a 24-year-old Stacyville man, who was arrested not once – but twice for the same offense, even though the first incident reportedly resulted in a crash.

Our Bangor car accident attorneys want to drive home this message, especially as we approach prom and graduation season. Teens may be eager to celebrate, but being the one to supply the drinks or host a booze-filled party can land the involved adults in serious trouble.

In the Stacyville case, authorities were first alerted to this man’s actions in early February, when he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by an 18-year-old who crashed her parents’ pickup truck in Sherman after drinking alcohol at the man’s home. The driver and another 18-year-old female passenger sustained minor injuries, as did the 24-year-old. (All had been wearing their seat belts.) The truck was demolished after the vehicle went off the pavement and slammed into a utility pole. The pole later had to be repaired.

Authorities subsequently issued the 24-year-old with a citation for “furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol.” This is a criminal offense, and is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to one year. A person who actually furnishes alcohol to a minor can be fined up to $500 and jailed up to six months.

Maine’s Liquor Liability Act, Title 28-A, Section 2503 establishes a legal basis upon which victims can seek compensation for damages that result from intoxication. The crux of it is that anyone who recklessly or negligently serves alcohol either to a minor or a person who is “visibly intoxicated” can be held liable when in turn those individuals cause damage or injury to others. Damages in these cases are capped at $350,000, plus medical expenses. Most of the time, homeowners insurance won’t cover the expenses because defendants were acting in the commission of a crime at the time of injury.

This statute is applicable to non-licensed, social hosts, meaning the person doesn’t have to hold a liquor license in order to be sued for reckless or negligent conduct.

It’s important to note also that all kegs containing at least 7.75 gallons have to be labeled, and the retailer keeps tabs on who paid for the keg. If you purchase a keg and a teen at your home gains access, you can be held liable. If you attempt to remove the keg tag, you could face up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. Even simple possession of an unlabeled keg can result in a $500 fine.

Finally, teens need to educate themselves on the potential consequences as well. Simply possessing alcohol while under the age of 21 will face a $300 fine. And while adult drivers are not typically deemed intoxicated until their blood-alcohol content has reached a threshold of 0.08 percent, Maine has a Zero Tolerance Teen OUI Law. That means if you are caught with any alcohol in your system behind the wheel, your license is automatically suspended for one year. If you have another passenger in the car under the age of 21, tack on another six months to that suspension. If you refuse to be tested for alcohol consumption, that’s an automatic 1.5-year license suspension.

This is all in addition to whatever punishment you might receive if you are actually in a crash and cause property damage and hurt someone. In those cases, felony charges may be applied. If someone is killed, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed against the driver, in which case non-economic damages are capped at $750,000 ($500,000 for pain and suffering and $250,000 in punitive damages).

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact us at 1-800-804-2004.

Additional Resources:
Stacyville man charged with allowing trio of teens to drink at his home, violating bail, March 22, 2014, By Nick McCrea, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:
Bangor Area Driver Killed in Head-On Collision, Feb. 1, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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