A Ban on Alcohol for Minors at House Parties
The House Party Law is a new law, effective October 1, 2006,
An Act Concerning Underage DrinkingThe House Party Law is a new law, effective October 1, 2006, which makes it a crime to knowingly allow a minor, defined as a person under twenty-one years of age, to possess alcohol on their private property. Contained within An Act Concerning Underage Drinking , the legislation closes a perceived loophole that has allowed parents to hold house parties with alcohol for their teenage children and friends. In certain circumstances, adults could also violate the new law for not stopping a minor from possessing alcohol. Under the new law, the first offense is an infraction. Subsequent offenses carry up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.
State Representative Michael Lawlor (D-East Haven), a University of New Haven criminology professor and a member of the Judiciary Committee, which sponsored the bill, described the old loophole as a "quirk" in Connecticut law that police and prosecutors interpreted to mean that underage people could not possess alcohol in public, but that term "didn't include private property, like someone's home or backyard."
The old law provided that a minor who possesses any alcoholic liquor "on any street or highway or in any public place or place open to the public, including any club which is open to the public," would be subject to a fine. 3 This prohibition has been broadened to include possession of alcohol "on public or private property." A first offense would be considered an infraction, and any subsequent offense would be subject to a fine of not less than $200 or more than $500.
exemptionsThere are exemptions for "a person over age eighteen who is an employee or permit holder ... and who possesses alcoholic liquor in the course of such person's employment or business, (2) a minor who possesses alcoholic liquor on the order of a practicing physician, or (3) a minor who possesses alcoholic liquor while accompanied by a parent, guardian or spouse of the minor, who has attained the age of twenty-one."
In addition, the Act expressly states, in several places, that it shall not be construed to burden a person's exercise of religion under the Connecticut's Constitution or laws. This would typically exempt communion at Churches wherein minors consume wine as part of the religious service.
The Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking has been fighting to have legislation such as this for five years. Momentum for the cause came from publicity over the January arrest of a Farmington couple who had held a keg party for their son's 18th birthday.