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📮 In today's Issue, we cover:
🚩Disclaimer: The Common Parent does not provide legal advice. The below is simply an overview and not meant to be an exhaustive explanation of legal rights, charges or law enforcement procedures which vary by country and locality.
House parties have always been a rite of passage for many teens. Using their house to host a party while their parents are gone is a natural event given their age and inability to access bars, clubs and other places.
But, unsanctioned house parties - aka illegal house parties where party-goers use houses that are not theirs and they have no right to occupy or use - to throw parties have been on the rise in recent years with technology and apps making it so much easier to find unoccupied homes or other spaces and share the addresses.
Oftentimes, real estate listings (think Zillow, Redfin, etc.) and neighborhoods are scouted to identify vacant houses like foreclosures, new builds or homes undergoing renovations. Then, social media apps get the word out in a matter of minutes. Boom - party time.
These aren't the house parties of the 1990’s with disposable cameras and camcorders you had to wait days to see photos and videos from. These parties get advertised, live-tweeted and posted before, during and after they are happening…which is low-hanging fruit for homeowners and law enforcement to use in finding the culprits and pressing charges.
⚖️ Legal Trouble
A teen can end up in legal trouble by simply attending an unsanctioned house party (not to mention throwing one) since just being there is committing a crime.
Here are some civil and criminal charges that could arise out of an unsanctioned house party:
- Breaking an entering
- Damage to property
- Underage drinking
- Illegal substance abuse
- Public Nuisance
- Disorderly conduct
- Noise Ordinance violations
- and more….
In the instances where party-goers have been naive enough to record images and footage of themselves at these parties and post them on social media, homeowners and law enforcement have used those posts as evidence in pressing civil and criminal charges. Even if a teen simply attended and did not know the house wasn’t rightfully rented or occupied and even when the post was “private” or after the post is deleted.
Law enforcement can subpoena Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and phone records, digital storage, etc under some evidentiary guidelines that aim to help homeowners enforce their rights and uphold the law.
One internet search is all it takes to pull up dozens of stories of kids who are seriously injured, assaulted and even killed at unsanctioned parties. Whether they take place in parks, unoccupied houses or businesses, the ability to find an illicit party via social media app is unprecedented.
It's easier than ever to get swept up in a bad situation and end up facing criminal charges. The best way to keep your teen out of trouble when it comes to unsanctioned house parties is two-fold:
- Let them know you are in the know about how these parties work. When your teen says they're going out, ask them outright if they're going to a party they found online.
- Warn them about the very real dangers and consequences of attending unsanctioned house parties.
⚠️ Dangers of attending -
- Health Risks - drugs, alcohol, fumes, exposure to unfinished buildings and materials, etc.
- Homeowner Reaction - you never know how someone will act in protecting their self, their property and their family/pets.
- Police Intervention - when police arrive on the scene, they take measures to control the situation, which can oftentimes involve a variety of methods.
- Dangers on the property - exposed wires, beams, nails, etc are just some dangers of attending a party in a vacant building, foreclosed property or mid-construction project.
☹️ Consequences of attending -
- Legal trouble
- School Events - like being barred from attending homecomings, proms and graduations.
- Sports & Extracurriculars - ability to participate in teams, tournaments, clubs and community events.
- Jobs - their employers may not want to associate their company with a teen who got in trouble as a reflection of their company and hiring choices.
- Future - if not expunged from a criminal record (and sometimes even if it is), it could impact things like careers in military, law enforcement and other fields.
- Parental Decisions - consequences you choose to impose like grounding, curfews, chores, phone privileges, driving privileges, community service, apology letters, etc.
Communication is key. If your teen knows that you are aware of how these parties work and the dangers, legal trouble and consequences that could arise, they will think twice about attending one.
University and College towns in Canada are beginning to implement Nuisance Party By-Laws that provide police and law enforcement with additional charges for large social gatherings. If charged, the host, property owner or attendee can face up to $10,000 for a first offense and $25,000 for any subsequent offense related to an unsanctioned house party.
Unsanctioned House Parties in the News :
Founders of The Common Parent: Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer (Cat & Nat)
The Cap Contributors: Catherine Belknap, Natalie Telfer, Kelly Kresen, Josee Telfer, Cath Tassie and Allie Coughlin
Special Thanks to Officer Hennick
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