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When parents claim ignorance of alcohol use by minors at home

In Connecticut, the criminal statute prohibiting the possession of alcohol by a minor was expanded in 2012 to include recklessness or negligence in allowing such possession. According to the Connecticut General Assembly, if a person owns or otherwise possesses or controls private property, the criminal law is violated if they knowingly allow a minor to possess an alcoholic beverage on the premises or if they recklessly permit a minor to do so. A minor under the statute is any person under the age of twenty-one.

For Connecticut parents, this means that they cannot simply withdraw to another room and claim ignorance while minors gather at their home and use alcohol. If there are minors in their home, parents must do more than simply go into another room or leave the house.

The same statute prohibits a person from “fail[ing] to make reasonable efforts to halt” the possession of alcohol by minors at their homes. While the statute does not define “reasonable efforts,” it is, perhaps, assumed that some effort to remove the alcohol or trespass offenders must be made.

As two parents recently found out, according to the Patch Network in Darien, police expect parents to have “take[n] any and all reasonable steps” to stop minors from possessing alcoholic beverages at their homes. In that case, the parents affirmed their understanding that minors were having a party but they denied knowing that they were using alcohol. Such a denial was not enough for authorities who charged the parents.

In criminalizing recklessness and negligence with respect to knowledge about the possession of alcohol by minors, the Connecticut legislature is imposing a heightened duty on parents. Parents who have knowledge or should have knowledge of such use may be criminally liable.

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