Under Indiana social host law, hosts are liable for party guests who drink and drive

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Celebrate responsibly. It’s a term we have all heard before. New Year's Eve ranks among the deadliest days for alcohol-related traffic fatalities. CBS4 discovered it's not just Indiana partygoers that need to be responsible, but also the hosts.

“Indiana has a social host law,” said Indianapolis Defense Lawyer Jack Crawford.

That’s right. Crawford says as a host you have an obligation to the people at your party.

“Some folks think, ‘hey, you came to my party. I wasn’t charging you drinks, you were helping yourself out in the kitchen I don’t know what kind of condition you are, so I don’t have any legal responsibility.’ That’s not true,” said Crawford.

The host can be legally responsible. Brent Jackson has a friend who learned the hard way.

“He had a house party and one of the kids I went to high school with was drinking, drove, and wound up getting into a wreck,” said Jackson. “He ended up being responsible, the cops came over and interviewed and I think he ended up being liable for about $25,000 worth of damage.”

It’s a hefty bill that could have been prevented by planning ahead, collecting the keys of your guests and following a few safety tips.

“Anyone drinking drops their keys for us. Yeah, we also have rooms always available for them to sleep in to, so they have no excuse for stuff they might do irresponsibly outside of the party,” said party hosts Ky Hudgens and Amanda Spies.

Crawford says to make sure as host to stay sober. If a friend or family member hurts someone else in a wreck, your insurance could come into play.

“If that person leaves your party in a visibly intoxicated state, stumbling and slurring their speech and you know they’re the driver, if they get involved in a traffic accident and injure someone or cause property damage, or even worse cause someone’s death, then the family of the victim can come against your homeowner’s insurance policy,” said Crawford.

There are simple steps to take at your last party of 2018, so you don’t begin 2019 in legal trouble.

“Everyone wants to have a good time, but nobody wants to get in a situation where they are hurting someone or bringing harm and liability on to the host of the party,” Crawford added.

According to AAA, keep in mind the following ABC’s of party hosting.

  • A – Alcohol Awareness
    Ask your guests to choose a designated driver for the evening. Have a car key collection when your guests arrive. Mix drinks yourself and avoid open bars. Stop serving alcohol 90 minutes before the party is over.
  • B – Buffet
    Always serve high protein foods such as meats and cheeses. They stay in the stomach longer and slow down the rate of intoxication. Starchy foods are great too. Minimize salt. Salt makes people thirsty and speeds up intoxication. Always provide non-alcoholic beverages such as “mocktails,” soft drinks, juices and punch.
  • C – Carpool
    Remember: only TIME will make your guests sober. It takes one hour for the body to process the average drink. 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer and 1.5 ounces of liquor contain about the same amount of alcohol. Keep watch on behavior. Arrange a cab or ride share service (such as Lyft or Uber), ride with a designated driver, or invite intoxicated friends to sleep over. For irate guests, “hide” their keys until they have found another ride home.

IMPD says they will have extra officers patrolling starting at 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Partygoers should be aware of alternate transportation; Uber, Lyft, designated driver, cab or the best suggestion, stay in place, either at home or hotel.

Officers will patrol in locations of high crash incidents, bar locations, and busy areas such as; Broad Ripple, downtown, Fountain Square, Mass. Ave., Castleton, and south side.

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