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Frat parties + underage drinking = possible criminal consequences

While attending parties at fraternity and sorority houses are often considered part of the college experience, there is also an expectation among many that drinking alcohol will also be a part of this experience. While this may be the norm at many parties, it's incredibly important for party attendees to know there could be consequences for drinking at these parties, especially if you are under the age of 21.

Maryland's underage drinking laws

Generally speaking, it is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. However, there is one particular exception to this rule that, if misinterpreted, can land underage drinkers in trouble with the law. The exception is one that states: Alcohol may be consumed if the underage drinker is on a private residence and has the consent of an immediate family member, such as a parent.

For a lot of college students, this exception raises two important questions: Are fraternity and sorority houses considered private residences? And what does the law mean by consent?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is complex and starts with determining ownership of the house. If the property is on campus and owned by the college or university, the house may not be considered a private residence and therefore is subject to all applicable laws.

Even properties held by private individuals or commercial property management companies may not constitute private residences, depending on the situation, which can land unwary underage drinkers in serious trouble if caught by police.

Further complicating matters is what the law means by consent. Underage drinkers need more than just a mere text message from their parents saying they can drink at a party. Maryland law requires supervision of the underage drinker while they are consuming alcohol. So unless your parents plan on attending the party, you could find yourself facing a criminal offense for underage drinking.

Criminal consequences can be devastating

A conviction for underage drinking is not something you should take lightly. Convictions for alcohol offenses can result in steep fines, the suspension of your license and even consequences at school. When it doubt, it's best to get information from a trusted source instead of risking your future because you didn't understand the law.

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