It would be nice if everyone waited until they were 21 before drinking alcohol. However, many teens experiment while in high school and college and end up drinking well before they should. According to recent data, approximately 30 percent of teens between the ages of 15 and 17 have consumed alcohol.
The danger with this is that many teens do not thoroughly understand how alcohol affects their bodies, increasing the risk of a DUI if they get behind the wheel. This poses many dangers to the teen, but occasionally, the child's parents can face some repercussions, too. This will not always happen, but there have been instances where the parents were criminally or civilly liable for their child's actions.
While the driver will face criminal charges, there may also be civil lawsuits that come to the forefront. For instance, if the teenager damaged another person's car or personal property, then that person can sue to attempt to receive damages. For the most part, parents are liable in these cases until their children turn 18.
The law surrounding a parent's criminal liability is a bit murkier. Generally, the driver of the vehicle will be the only one to face criminal charges unless the parents aided the child in some way. For example, if the parents supplied their teenager with alcohol and then the child snuck out, drove somewhere and got into an accident, then the parents will be liable.
This also extends to if the child who got the DUI was not the parents' children. For instance, if the parents hosted a party where underage kids had easy access to alcohol, then they will be liable if anyone ends up in an accident that evening. Parents may also be liable if they do not take proper actions to make it difficult for teens to gain access to alcohol in the house. There are many factors that impact liability, and ultimately, parents should hire an attorney immediately after discovering a teen's criminal behavior.