Jacksonville Open House Party Lawyer

helps people defend against
Open House Party

Florida's Open House Party statute is a very broad law that ensnare many people and provides citizens with little guidance on what is lawful conduct and what is unlawful conduct. 

  If you have been charged with an Open House Party offense, call the experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer of LGL to discuss your particular case and how we can help.
What is Open House Party?

Open House Party is defined in Florida Statute Section 856.015.  To prove the crime of Open House Party, the State must prove that the defendant:
  • was an adult in control of the premises
  • knowingly allowed a social gathering to take place there
  • had actual knowledge that a minor possessed or consumed alcoholic beverages or controlled substances during the gathering
  • allowed the party to continue and failed to take any reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption.  

What is a "Minor?"

A "minor' is defined in this statute as  an individual who is not legally permitted to possess alcoholic beverages because of their age.  So, a minor would include anyone who has not reached the age of 21 years of age, the legal drinking age in Florida.   
Isn't Florida's Open House Party Statute Unconstitutionally Vague? 

You may be wondering if Florida's Open House Party statute is unconstitutionally vague.  Well, the Fifth DCA thought so, but the Florida Supreme Court disagreed.  In State v. Manfredonia, 649 So.2d 1388 (Fla. 1995), the Florida Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Open House Party statute holding that the statute was permissible under the Constitution as it puts citizens on notice that they are forbidden from having a party at a residence they control and knowing allowing a minor to consume or possess alcoholic beverages or controlled substances.  The Court found that a person can avoid criminal liability by terminating the party or by taking some other reasonable action to prevent the consumption or possession. 

However, the Manfredonia case did not address the practical problem when the consumption or possession is not part of a full blown party, but part of a much smaller, informal social gathering.  

Does the statute apply to minors under 18 years of age? 

The Open House Party statute applies to "a person" defined as an individual 18 years of age or older. So, a 17 year old who throws a house party while his or her parents are out of town would not be subject to this particular statute.  

What is the potential sentence for Open House Party?

First Offense with No Serious Bodily Injury

Any person found guilty of violating Florida's Open House Party statute faces up to 60 days in jail and up to 6 months probation.  This statute is a 2nd Degree Misdemeanor.   

Second or Subsequent Violation
However, any person who has a prior violation of this statute is facing an enhancement to a 1st Degree Misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 1 year in jail. 

Serious Bodily Injury
If the minor, because of the alcohol or drug consumption is seriously injured or if they cause serious bodily injury to another because of the consumption, the offense is enhanced from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail.  For example, if you have a house party and a minor, after drinking at the party with your knowledge, drives home and gets into a DUI accident involving serious bodily injury to himself or herself or to anyone else, the maximum possible sentence would be increased from 60 days to 1 year.  

What are the possible defenses to Open House Party?

There are several possible defenses to the charge of Open House Party.  

No Knowledge - The statute only applies to a person who has actual knowledge of the consumption or possession by the minor.  This can be difficult for the State to prove.  The State will typically rely on witness statements and/or defendant admissions.  These statements are often not recorded and are subject to credibility determinations by a fact finder.  

No Social Gathering - An open house party is defined in the statute as a "social gathering at a residence." However, "social gathering" is not defined.  This is a jury question and could be a basis for a motion to dismiss.  The fewer people and the less organized the gathering, the less likely it is to be a social gathering

No Control - The State must prove that you had control over the residence. Control is defined as the authority or ability to regulate, direct, or dominate.  You may be able to challenge this element, particularly if the residence is owned or controlled by another individual. 

No Residence - The statute only applies to a residence, defined as a home, apartment, condominium, or other dwelling unit. This element won't be at issue in a majority of Open House Party cases, but in some cases there will be a question about whether the offense location is a residence under this definition. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for or accused of
Open House Party,

Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)

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