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Parents: Providing Alcohol to Minors In Washington State Will Get You Into Trouble

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

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In Washington State, it is illegal for an adult to provide alcohol to minors.  It is also illegal for a property owner to provide a place for them to drink.  The statute provides:

(1) It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control. For the purposes of this subsection, “premises” includes real property, houses, buildings, and other structures, and motor vehicles and watercraft. A violation of this subsection is a gross misdemeanor punishable as provided for in chapter 9A.20 RCW.[1]

Violating the law can put you in jail for up to 364 days, subject you to a $5,000.00 fine, or both.[2]

There is a strange exception to the law:  it is not illegal for parents or guardians of their minor child to furnish alcohol to them as long as it is done under their supervision.[3]  This does not mean it is ok for an adult to supervise anyone else other than their child – so providing a safe place for your child and their friends to drink is illegal.  In addition, you may be liable for civil damages if a child leaves your house and is injured because they are intoxicated.

Research has shown that even supervised minors who drink with adult supervision are more likely to have problems with alcohol than kids who are not allowed to drink until age 21. The study was conducted by Barbara J. McMorris, lead author and a senior research associate at the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota.[4]  She and her colleagues tracked1,945 seventh graders for three years.  Half of the teens were from Victoria, Australia, the other half from Washington state.

The study found that it didn’t matter in which country parents and youth lived, the idea of teaching teens responsible drinking behavior was not working.   The study found that adult-supervised settings for alcohol use resulted in higher levels of harmful alcohol consequences, contrary to predictions prior to the study.   “The study makes it dear that you shouldn’t be drinking with your kids” says McMorris.

So, the next time you’re asked to buy or provide alcohol to a minor or to allow underage drinking in your home, simply tell them: NO.  It’s bad for them and could also expose you to criminal and civil liability.  Be a smart parent and don’t let any person under the age of 21 drink on your property.



[1] RCW 66.44.270.

[2] RCW 9A.20.021.

[3] RCW 66.44.270(3).

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