Between the freedom of summer and the potential for lifted COVID-19 restrictions, people across the state will be more than ready for some fun in the coming weeks.

But if you are the one responsible for that fun, you can also be responsible for the consequences if something bad happens. For instance, if you serve alcohol at your establishment or party, you could face criminal and civil charges if you serve minors.

Criminal consequences

In Tennessee, people who serve or sell alcohol to people under 21 can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Possible penalties include fines, loss of driver’s license, community service, jail time and criminal record.

Vendors – people who sell alcohol – can face additional penalties for selling to minors. They could have their license to sell suspended or revoked.

Civil consequences

If a minor drinks at your home or establishment then gets into an accident on his or her way home, you could be liable for financial damages stemming from the crash. You could be sued for emotional distress, medical bills and property damage.

Protecting yourself from criminal and civil charges

If you are hosting a party and serving alcohol this summer, take reasonable steps to ensure minors are not drinking. You might not let in anyone under 21, or you could restrict physical access to liquor and beer.

If you give or buy alcohol for someone, make sure the person is of legal age. You could ask for ID, for example, just to be safe.

All that said, most party hosts do not ask for ID from their guests or have a bartender controlling who gets beverages. And parents of a child who is having a party are unlikely to search the guests who may be bringing alcohol with them – especially if the parent does not even know about the party in the first place. Because of these realities of social gatherings, there remains a potential for minors to get alcohol at parties.

If you do wind up facing criminal charges for providing alcohol to minors, it is crucial to take the allegations seriously. Even if you think it was a harmless mistake, it can be vital to defend yourself to avoid conviction.