This information does not constitute legal advice, nor is it intended as a substitute for legal advice.
Wright State University students who have questions concerning the law should contact Student Legal Services to arrange an appointment.
Alcohol and the Law
What are some party guidelines to ensure proper responsibility?
This section is designed to provide you with information about the legal consequences of hosting a party and to assist you in making informed choices. You should seriously consider these consequences because you will bear the responsibility for your choices.
Attending a Party
As a guest you have an obligation to be considerate to the host and the host's neighbors. Please avoid damaging property or trespassing on other people's property.
- If you answer the telephone while at a party, contact the host. If a neighbor calls to complain and you hang up, then that neighbor's next call will be to the police.
- Please be aware of the noise levels you generate, especially when you are traveling to or from a party. Leave your beer at the party; carrying an open container of alcohol on the public sidewalks or streets is a crime. Use the restrooms at the party; using the outdoors is not environmentally safe and may result in charges of disorderly conduct or indecent exposure.
Finally, remember that moderation and responsible drinking reduce your risks. When alcohol is not used in moderation, it tends to lead to criminal behavior as well as other social problems.
Let's Have a Party
Hosting or attending a party is an excellent time to talk with old friends, meet new friends, listen to music, eat, and drink. If alcohol is served, remember that most successful parties do not focus on alcohol consumption. Parties are more fun without arrests, property damage, or personal injuries.
The first decision you will make is whether to serve alcohol. If you are on campus and choose to serve alcohol be sure to review Wright State University's Student Code of Conduct for the policy regarding alcohol.
When used responsibly at a well-organized event, alcohol may contribute to a good time. Irresponsible alcohol and drug use, however, are likely to bring detrimental results such as poor academic performance, strained social relations, and legal difficulties. These legal difficulties may include criminal penalties, civil damages, and/or university sanctions.
Know the Perils of Having a Party
Anytime you host a party you risk problems with:
- noise violations,
- disorderly conduct,
- improper parking, and
- lease violations.
In the event alcohol is served, the risks increase dramatically to include criminal law violations such as:
- furnishing alcohol to an underage person, and
- hosting a public party without an alcohol permit.
Likewise, you may be liable for money damages if an underage person obtains alcohol at your party and that person later causes property damage or personal injury to another. Of course, an underage guest also may be charged criminally with possession or consumption of alcohol.
During Your Party
As a host you are accountable for your party. In order to avoid underage possession of alcohol, you must check an Ohio driver's license at the place where alcohol is served, as well as monitor the premises to ensure that underage persons are not avoiding your efforts. Moreover, you cannot sell alcohol to anyone unless you have a permit; you also may not sell any commodity to recover the cost of alcohol, take up a collection, or charge an admission.
- If you have not obtained an "F" permit for serving alcohol, you may not have a public party; thus, you should limit attendance to people you know. You may make your party private by limiting the number of guests, monitoring your guests as they arrive, closing the doors, and closing the windows. If your party is private, then the police may not enter your dwelling without a warrant or your consent; so do your best to keep the party private.
- You should monitor the loudness of your party by periodically checking the level of noise at your property lines. Your party will be quieter if you can keep your guests inside your home. Closing windows and doors will also reduce the noise levels heard by your neighbors.
- Ensure that sufficient restrooms are available so your guests are not using the outdoors. You also should guard against your guests damaging your property and the landlord's apartment. Do not permit drug use; merely permitting drug abuse is a crime. Finally, be available to answer the phone during the party. If neighbors telephone but are unable to speak with the host, then they usually call the police instead.
Moderation is the key to a successful party. If people consume too much alcohol, they are likely to use poor judgment. Poor judgment tends to lead to criminal behavior such as disorderly conduct, property damage, driving under the influence of alcohol, vandalism, or acquaintance rape. Excessive consumption of alcohol also may lead to other consequences such as alcoholism, unwanted sexual experiences, missed classes, poor performance on exams, strained relationships, and other undesirable results.
Hazards of Serving Alcohol
You have a duty to follow the laws of your city, state, and nation, together with the policies of the university. If you neglect this duty, you may face certain penalties including, without limitation, fines, jail, and/or expulsion from school. The following section describes several alcohol-related criminal offenses and penalties which typically result from a poorly planned party.
- Furnishing alcohol to an underage person
Party hosts risk fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record when furnishing alcohol to a person they know or should know is not 21 years of age. You may serve alcohol only to persons 21 years old or older. If you fail to take precautions to prohibit access to alcohol by an underage person you are criminally liable for furnishing alcohol to that underage person. If convicted of this crime, you face maximum penalties of 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.
- Underage possession
The minimum age in Ohio for possession or consumption of an alcoholic beverage is 21 years old. A person who purchases, possesses, or consumes alcohol prior to his/her 21st birthday is guilty of a first degree misdemeanor. If convicted of this crime, you face maximum penalties of 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.
- False identification
Possession or display of a fictitious operator's license is a first degree misdemeanor. The offense exists when the driver's license is altered or when you present someone else's valid driver's license as your own. The maximum penalties associated with this offense are 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. Moreover, you may forfeit your driving privileges for one year.
- Alcohol permit violations
The sale or distribution of alcohol to persons under the age of 21 is illegal. It is also illegal to sell alcohol to persons of any age without a permit or license. Similarly, it is illegal to give away beer at a public party, unless you have the proper alcohol permit. A public party is one open to the general public. A party usually is considered public if the host does not have a guest list, does not know all of the people present, or does not limit the size of the party.
- Driving under the influence
Do not drink alcohol and then drive to or from a party; the risks you take are simply too great. In Ohio, a person may not operate a motor vehicle if impaired by alcohol or drugs. The maximum penalties for this offense include 6 months in jail (you must serve at least 3 days in jail), a $1,000 fine, or both. Furthermore, you will forfeit your driving privileges for a minimum of 3 months.
- Open container
Open containers of alcohol are not permitted on public property. Thus, you may not have an open glass, bottle, or can of alcohol on public streets, public sidewalks, or other public areas. An open container of alcohol, therefore, should be kept on private property, preferably in the house. An open container of alcohol on public property is a minor misdemeanor subject to a maximum $100 fine.
- Excessive noise
To avoid noise control violations, keep doors and windows shut. Both the state and city have laws which prohibit noise pollution. A first time noise violation is a minor misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. A second offense is a fourth degree misdemeanor with maximum penalties of 45 days in jail, a $250 fine or both. Before you expose yourself to a criminal law violation, review the risks such as possible fines, imprisonment, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem and reputation, and a criminal record which could jeopardize your career. If you have any questions or comments regarding the legal consequences of alcohol-related criminal offenses, please contact Student Legal Services.
In addition to the criminal liability explained above, a social host who serves alcohol to an underage person may be civilly liable to third parties for personal injuries and property damage caused by the underage person. For example, if a host serves alcohol to an underage person who then causes a traffic accident which kills someone, the host may be liable for wrongful death damages, as well as the damage to the automobiles and other property. Thus, a host who serves alcohol to an underage person may be liable for the damages caused by that person after leaving the party.
Concluding Your Party
Hosts can save their guests considerable trouble and money by insisting that all beer be left at the door. If your guests carry open containers of alcohol on city sidewalks or streets, they will be cited. Clean up all litter immediately. Also, contact your neighbors for their post-party comments.
As your guests begin to leave the party, do not allow those who have consumed alcohol to drive home. Designated drivers literally may be the "life" of your party. If a guest has consumed alcohol, ensure that a designated driver takes that guest home safely. Remind your guests that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs usually will involve more than $1,000 in fines, a license suspension, and mandatory jail time of at least 3 days if convicted.
Remember, as a resident and/or a student at Wright State University that you are an integral part of the community. Please respect your town and its residents. Communicate with the people that will be affected by your party, especially your neighbors. The more consideration and respect you show for your neighbors, the more consideration and respect you will receive from them. You should strive to understand others regardless of their age, race, culture, tradition, or political perspective, so that you can resolve differences honestly and directly. You should maintain a safe and attractive place to live, work, and obtain an education. Be concerned about the safety and welfare of others, together with the social consequences of your behavior. Show the community that you deserve its trust by carefully operating motor vehicles, carefully using your landlord's property, and carefully using and distributing alcohol.
- For a variety of reasons, the police may visit your party. Be courteous to them and obey their orders, including orders to disperse. If you do not cooperate with the police, you increase your chances of receiving a citation for disorderly conduct, failure to disperse, resisting arrest, or obstruction of justice. Be aware that the police may issue a citation without any prior warning.
- If you have complaints regarding police procedure or conduct, do not aggravate the situation with aggressive or boisterous behavior. Instead, take notes and present this information to Student Legal Services, Inc. Remember names of officers and witnesses and also what happened. If you would like to report police misconduct, be sure to download our Police Misconduct form (PDF).
If your party is private, the police need a search warrant or your consent to enter your residence. If the police arrest you, stay calm and polite. You should not resist, flee, or evade the officers. Remember, you do have the right to remain silent, so inform the police that you do not wish to answer any questions until your attorney is present. This right is important because any admissions or statements you make to the police will be used against you. The law only requires that you identify yourself.
What type of conduct is considered disorderly conduct?
A disorderly conduct occurs when one recklessly causes inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another due to offensive conduct. This includes fighting, loud and offensive language, urination in public, and public indecency. Disorderly conduct while intoxicated is a minor misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of a $150.00 fine.
I received a ticket for “open container.” What does that mean?
In Ohio, it is illegal to possess an open container of alcohol in a public place. This offense is a minor misdemeanor and if convicted, the maximum penalty is $150.00. Consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle is a 4th degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, a $250.00 fine, or both.
What are the penalties for operating a motor vehicle under the influence? (OVI, formerly DUI)
If you have been drinking and you drive, you put yourself and others at risk. If you are charged with “operating a vehicle while intoxicated” (OVI), you face a mandatory sentence of 3 days in jail, up to 6 months in jail, a $1,075.00 fine, or both. In addition, if you are found guilty, your driving privileges will be suspended for 6 months up to 3 years. Also, if you are granted limited driving privileges, the judge may order that any vehicle you drive be registered with restricted license plates.
I recently threw a party and the police ticketed someone there for underage drinking. I also got a ticket for “furnishing”. What is “furnishing?”
Anyone who furnishes alcohol to a person under the age of 21 or who provides a place for someone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol may be found guilty of a first degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for a first degree misdemeanor are 6 months imprisonment, a $1,000.00 fine, or both.
Is this really the sentence that I will receive?
Probably not. A judge has discretion in determining your sentence. Typically, a first offense will include a sentence of a $250.00 fine and a suspended jail sentence, however every case is different and must be evaluated on its own circumstances. A second alcohol related charge will have a sentence including jail time imposed.
If I am convicted or plead guilty to Underage Possession, what kind of sentence could I receive?
Anyone purchasing, possessing, or consuming alcohol prior to their 21st birthday may be found guilty of a first degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for a first degree misdemeanor are six months imprisonment, a $1,000.00 fine, or both.
I recently received a ticket for Underage Possession, but the officer didn’t ask if I had been drinking. How does that affect my charge?
The charges of Underage Possession, Underage Under the Influence, and Underage Consumption, are all charges under the same state statute (ORC §4301.69(E)(1)) and city ordinance. In order to prove underage possession, the officer only needs to show that he saw you in possession of an alcoholic beverage, you are under 21, and you were in the city’s jurisdiction. Whether or not you were drinking the alcoholic beverage is irrelevant.
My friends and I want to rent an apartment together next quarter. How do I protect my interests just in case things don’t work out after we are all living together?
If you sign a lease with multiple roommates, and one or more of your roommates move out, your landlord will hold the remaining roommates “joint and severally liable” for the balance of the rent. In other words, you will be responsible for paying your roommates’ share of the rent. The best way to protect your interests is to only sign a lease with responsible and trustworthy individuals. Make sure all your roommates sign the lease and keep a receipt of all your rental payments. Make sure you carefully read all the language of the lease and understand it before signing. If you have questions, bring a copy of your lease to Student Legal Services and have one of our attorneys review it with you
My roommates and I have adopted a stray cat that was hanging around our apartment. Could we get in trouble with our landlord for this?
Bringing a pet onto the premises after signing a lease/rental agreement that prohibited them would give your landlord grounds to evict you for a breach of the lease. If your lease does permit pets, make sure that you contact your landlord and pay the extra pet deposit if such a fee exists in your agreement. Be advised that you will be responsible for any damage your pet may cause to your apartment beyond ordinary wear and tear.
My neighbors party and play loud music at all hours. I have complained to them and my landlord on several occasions, but nothing has been done. Can I take any legal action against them or my landlord?
Ohio law requires all tenants to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb their neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises. The law implicitly makes it the landlord’s responsibility to oversee the peaceful coexistence of his tenants. Your landlord has the right to evict your noisy neighbors, but you may take no such action against them. However, you may report your neighbors to the police the next time they disturb the peace. Additionally, you may have other remedies under the Nuisance statutes or the Ohio Landlord Tenant Act. Contact Student Legal Services to discuss your options!
I moved out of my apartment over a month ago and I still haven’t received my security deposit. How do I get my money back?
Assuming you gave the landlord a forwarding address within thirty days after leaving, your landlord must return your full security deposit or all the money remaining after lawful deductions for back rent or damages within thirty days. Your landlord must provide you with an itemized list of the deductions withheld from your security deposit. If your landlord fails to comply with these requirements of the Ohio Landlord Tenant Act, you may sue your landlord for twice the money owed plus attorney fees. Student Legal Services can draft the complaint against your landlord and represent you in court!
The roof of my apartment building needs repair. We have notified our landlord that there is water leaking from the ceiling, but he hasn’t made any attempts to fix it. What should we do?
Ohio law mandates that the landlord must make repairs and do whatever is necessary to keep the premises “fit and habitable”. If your landlord fails to fulfill his obligation to fix your leaky roof, you have the right to withhold the payment of rent to him through an action known as “escrow”. First, you must notify your landlord in writing of the specific repairs needed. If your landlord still fails to remedy the condition within a reasonable time (generally thirty days), you may deposit your rent with the Clerk of Courts at the courthouse in the community where you reside. Contact our office for assistance: (937) 775-5857.