Holding hosts responsible

Where a personal sense of responsibility fails, legal accountability can step in. Through social host liability laws adults can be held responsible for underage drinking parties, regardless of who furnishes the alcohol.

Specifically, “social host” refers to adults who knowingly or unknowingly host underage drinking parties on property that they own, lease, or otherwise control. This includes:

  • Parents away from home when their teens host a party
  • Parents who are present but deny knowledge of drinking on their property
  • Owners and/or tenants of rural property
  • Owners of vacant property

In other words, if it’s your property, it’s your problem.

“Healthy social life” or “invitation to disaster”?

What do you suppose is the most common setting for drinking among high school seniors? It’s a private home. All too often, home is a teen’s source for alcohol. A 2005 study of teenagers between 13-18, conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA), showed that:

  • 2 out of 3 teens said it was easy to get alcohol
  • 1 in 3 said it was easy to get alcohol from their own consenting parents
  • 2 out of 5 said it was easy to get alcohol from friends’ parents
  • 1 in 4 said they’d attended a party where guests under 21 were drinking in front of parents

The Fallacy of a Controlled Rite of Passage

Well-meaning parents often host drinking parties on behalf of their children, either in the belief they can control the amount of alcohol a teen consumes or because they consider teen drinking inevitable and that their supervision can ensure the safety of the children involved. Truth is, once revelers start drinking and the party begins to grow in size, it can quickly spiral out of control and lead to devastating consequences.


Social host ordinances give communities practical tools for holding adults accountable for underage drinking. These laws allow law enforcement to cite the individual who hosted an underage drinking party on their property. 

Enforcing Liability at the State Level

Social host liability can be defined as a criminal act or in terms of civil liability.

Criminal Acts:

  • Enforced through criminal prosecution
  • Punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both

Civil Liability:

  • Injured parties seek monetary damages from host
  • Settled through litigation brought against host by injured parties.

Parents who host lose the most 

Don’t be a party to teenage drinking. It’s against the law. Hosting at home doesn’t change the facts or lessen the dangers. Underage drinking is a major public health issue and cause for concern.  

Some statistics in Dyer County

  • 61% of youth surveyed report that alcohol is easily obtained in Dyer County
  • 38% of youth surveyed said the easiest way to obtain alcohol is “An adut buys it for me”
  • 61% of youth surveyed stated that they had been to a youth gathering/party where alcohol was present
  • 25% said adults were present.

2013 PADD Survey of Dyersburg and Dyer County Youth on Alcohol

To report violations of the social host law please call:

Dyer County Sheriffs Department
(731) 285-2802

Dyersburg Police Department
(731) 285-1212

Newbern Police Department
(731) 627-2571