Can I Be Arrested for Having an Open House Party?

November 30, 2021 College, Criminal Defense

There are so many appeals to living in a college town like Tallahassee. The beautiful campuses, great food scene, nightlife, and especially open house parties hosted by other college students. Attending these parties is usually a fun and carefree experience where you drink on someone else’s dime, party in someone else’s house, and worry little about the consequences. However, hosting an open house party can lead to consequences that are not so lighthearted. Criminal defense offices in every college town like Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Orlando get calls from worried parents and scared students explaining that they were issued a Notice to Appear or were arrested for hosting an open house party. Do not let your future be affected by your hospitality and contact a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney familiar with these charges if you or a loved one has been arrested for hosting an open house party.

In General

Under Florida law, hosting or having control of an open house party wherein minors drink or do drugs at the party in the person’s house is a criminal offense. It mainly affects college or high school students and is highly defendable due to a lack of prosecutorial aggressiveness surrounding this type of charge. However, if convicted, the charge will result in a misdemeanor on your permanent criminal record, an eyesore for employers that you want to avoid.

The Statute – Section 856.015 of the Florida Statutes

The crime “open house party” is codified in Section 856.015 of the Florida Statutes. The statute states that:

“A person having control of any residence may not allow an open house party to take place at the residence if any alcoholic beverage or drug is possessed or consumed at the residence by any minor where the person knows that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor at the residence and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcohol or drug.”

Some important definitions under the statute:

  • An “alcoholic beverage” is a distilled spirit or other beverage containing 0.5 percent or more alcoholic volume.
  • “Control” refers to the authority or ability to direct, regulate, or dominate the events at play.
  • A “drug” is a controlled substance named or described in Schedules I – V of Section 893.03 of the Florida Statutes.
  • A “minor” is anyone under 21, or not legally permitted by reason of age to possess alcoholic beverages.
  • An “open house party” is a social gathering at a home or residence.
  • A “person” is someone 18 years old or older.
  • A “residence” is a condo, apartment, home, or unit meant for habitation or dwelling.

What Does the State Need to Prove to Secure a Conviction?

In order for a prosecutor to secure a conviction for an open house party crime, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:

  1. The defendant had control over a residence;
  2. The defendant allowed or directed a party to take place at the residence;
  3. Alcohol or drugs were used or consumed by minors at the residence;
  4. The defendant, while exhibiting control over the residence, had knowledge that the minors were using drugs or consuming alcohol; and
  5. The defendant, knowing that these activities are afoot, did not take reasonable steps to prevent the possession, usage, or consumption of drugs or alcohol.

Penalties for Hosting an Open House Party

Penalties will vary depending on the factual circumstances of the case. They are divided as follows:

First Time Offense

If this was a first-time offense and there was no serious bodily injury or death, the crime will be classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to sixty days in jail/six months of probation, and a fine of up to $500.

Subsequent Violations

If this is a second, or subsequent, offense or the open house party resulted in bodily injury or death, the crime will be classified as a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail/a year of probation, and a fine of up to $1,000.

However, open house party penalties do not stop just at jail time, probation, and fines. The consequences of having such a charge on your criminal record could severely limit your job opportunities, housing opportunities, government, or federal aid opportunities, amongst other setbacks.

Open House Party Defenses

Luckily, open house parties are considered highly defendable. This is because, as seen above, many factual elements must exist in order for the State to prove this charge. While defenses will vary depending on the factual situation at play, some common defenses include:

  • The defendant did not have control over the residence.
  • The party happened without the defendant’s authorization or consent.
  • The defendant has evidence that minors were not using drugs or drinking alcohol at the house party.
  • The defendant had no knowledge of minors drinking or using drugs at the house party.
  • The defendant took reasonable steps to prevent minors from drinking alcohol or using drugs at the house party.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

While an open house party charge is highly defendable, if a conviction is secured, it could seriously impair the future of you or a loved one. If you or a loved one has been charged with the crime of open house party, contact a seasoned and aggressive Tallahassee criminal defense attorney in order to explore your options. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience defending college students against criminal charges and will ensure every defense is aggressively pursued in your favor. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Gabi D’Esposito

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