Ask a lawyer

Apr 262010
Authors: Kathleen Harward, attorney, director of Student Legal Services

Q: Why is it so risky to throw a party?

You might be thinking, “Next you’ll tell me it’s risky to get out of bed. Give me a break!”
But consider the following:

It is a crime to provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. How hard is it in a college community to end up with underage party guests, even if you don’t invite them and even if you don’t realize they are underage?

If the guest is over 18 but under 21, the crime is a misdemeanor with penalties of up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the guest is under age 18, it’s worse: The crime is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

There’s also the potential civil (or money) liability that a party host faces. Under Colorado law, a party host is liable for bodily injury and property damage caused by an intoxicated guest when the host knowingly served alcohol to a minor or simply provided the underage person with a place to consume.

This means if minors get drunk at your party, whether you served them or just provided them with a place to consume, and they leave and crash into someone, you could be liable for the injuries and property damage of the person they harmed.

Finally, a party host risks receiving an “unreasonable noise” ticket if a neighbor complains and the responding police officers hear the party noise from your property boundary. Noise violations are criminal misdemeanors under the Fort Collins Municipal Code and carry up to a $1,000 fine. They also leave you with a permanent criminal record, which you will have to disclose on many job applications.

The inescapable conclusion is that it is less risky to go to someone else’s party than to throw your own.

While there is much to celebrate this time of year, please build safety into your plan. For party smart packs and to find out about a party registration program that might help you avoid a noise ticket, visit Off Campus Life in Room 195 of the Lory Student Center or go to

As always, the attorneys at Student Legal Services will help you with most any legal problem. Come to Room 182 of the Lory Student Center with your student ID to make an appointment.

Kathleen Harward is an attorney and director of Student Legal Services, which provides free legal advice to fee-paying CSU students. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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