Mark McCown: Being the cool dad could mean jail time

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Dear Lawyer Mark: I had an argument with my wife the other day about my boy and drinking, and wondered who was right.

He is 16 now, and I am OK with him drinking beer or wine, so long as he doesn’t overdo it.

I know the friends he hangs out with do it to, and I just don’t see it as a big deal.

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My wife thinks it is a big deal, and said kids aren’t allowed to drink at all if they are under 21.

My wife is going to her parents’ for Thanksgiving, and I was thinking about letting the kids have a party here, so long as they don’t drink and drive, and I get the OK from their parents. Is it okay for me to do this? — COOL DAD

Dear Cool: No, it is not OK for you to do that.

The laws in Ohio concerning alcohol use by minors are pretty straightforward and are set forth in Ohio Revised Code 4301.69. Ohio RC 4301.69(E)(1) says that, with only a few exceptions, people under the age of 21 are not allowed to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol.

The limited exceptions as to when they can have alcohol are: 1) a doctor gave the alcohol to the minor as part of a medical program; 2) the child is consuming the alcohol for “established religious purposes” such as communion; or 3) the child’s parent is supervising the child during the consumption of alcohol.

If the underage person violates this section, he could be found guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor crime, and could face a jail sentence of six months, plus a fine up to $1,000.

If the person is a minor under the age of 18, he would be looking at delinquency charges in juvenile court. This means that even if the parents of the kids said it was okay, the kids would be committing a crime by hanging out and drinking at your house unless their parents were supervising them.

Additionally, the parents who consented could also face criminal charges, as 4301.69(F) says a parent cannot “knowingly permit” their child to violate the underage drinking laws.

It is also a first-degree misdemeanor, with the same penalties as set forth above.

Finally, you could also go to jail and pay a fine if you host this party.

4301.69(A) forbids you from allowing underage people from drinking at your place of business or even in your own home, unless their parents are supervising them or it fits one of the other exceptions above.

You could be found guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor with the same maximums as above, but with a slight twist: there is a minimum fine for the host of $500.

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.