Dad Jailed Over Teens Drinking at His House

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on January 09, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Are you sure your minor kids are holding a tame, alcohol-free party? You might want to double check. Just ask Bill Burnett. The Stanford professor was arrested on 44 counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors over a party thrown by his teen son.

Burnett and his wife hosted the party for their son and his friends after Thanksgiving. The parents bought chips and soda. They said they made it clear that no alcohol was permitted.

Later that night, the Burnetts were surprised by a visit from police. Officials had received a report that children were drinking in the Burnetts' house. A search found that the 16- and 17-year-old party-goers had snuck in some alcohol.

Burnett was arrested.

He received one charge each for the 44 teens who attended the party. Each count is a misdemeanor that holds up to a $2,500 fine and almost a year in jail.

He was charged under social host laws. Around 18 states have imposed general social host liability laws. Many of these laws hold hosts responsible if they serve or furnish alcohol to minors.

The host doesn't need to personally provide alcohol to minors to be held liable. Hosts can be responsible if they knew alcohol was being served. This means parents might need to be more aware of what their children do. They might also need to keep tabs of their children's friends.

Should parents like Bill Burnett be held liable? The Stanford professor said he checked on the party twice. What do you think -- should he have known that alcohol was secretly taken into his house?

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