In Florida, the crime of hosting an “Open House Party” is governed by Statute 856.015, Florida Statutes. Florida law defines an illegal “open house party” as one where a person has control of any residence and allows a social gathering to take place where alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs are being consumed at the residence by minors and the party host knows or should know that minors are present at the party or did not take reasonable steps to prevent minors from attending a party.
Being in “control” of a residence in layman’s terms means the party host or residents of the home or apartment. More than one person can be in “control” of the party, such as roommates or fraternity brothers. This statute is commonly violated in our community when students throw parties and underage underclassmen attend. If the host of the party knows that someone under the age of 21 is consuming alcohol at his party, then he can be found in violation of the open house party statute. In the alternative, if the party host doesn’t know that someone under the age of 21 is consuming alcohol at his party but he did not take any steps to prevent underage people from entering the party and accessing his alcohol then he may also be in violation of the open house party statute. For example, if no one is manning the door and checking identification (picture a bouncer at a bar), and then Gainesville PD’s “Party Patrol” shows up and finds 19 and 20 year olds drinking beer, the party host or owner/renter of the residence can be charged with having an open house party.
Open house party is an enhanceable offense. The first violation is a second degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 60 days in jail, 6 months of probation and/or a $500 fine. Any subsequent violation is a first degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail, 12 months of probation, and/or a $1,000 fine. Law Enforcement may arrest an individual for a violation of this statute or he may issue a notice to appear.