If your child is arrested for drunk driving over spring break, you may be held partially liable for his or her behavior. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your child’s arrest, you may be held liable in a civil case and/or a criminal case. If your child is at least 21-years-old, you will likely not be held liable unless you knowingly over-served him or her. Otherwise, you will generally only risk liability if your child is underage.
Parents are generally not held criminally liable for underage drunk driving behaviors. However, some states will prosecute parents who hold parties with underage drinking. Some states do allow underage individuals to drink specifically when they are in the presence of their parent(s) and have the consent of that parent. However, this leniency does not extend to allowing other underage individuals to drink in a random adult’s presence. If you provide alcohol to your own child or to another underage individual, you may be held criminally responsible if that alcohol leads to a DUI, depending on the laws of the state you are in.
In addition, you may be held liable for your child’s drunk driving behavior if your drunk child gets into an accident while using the family car. Depending on which state you live in, you could be held liable for this situation under either the theory of negligent entrustment or the family car doctrine. If you have questions about how you could be impacted if your underage child drinks and drives this spring break, please consult a local criminal defense attorney.
Source: Findlaw Blotter, “Can Parents Be Held Liable for a Child’s Underage DUI?,” Christopher Coble, March 12, 2015