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Social Host Liability


Under social host liability laws, adults who serve or provide alcohol to minors or to persons who are obviously intoxicated can be held liable if a person who is provided alcohol is killed or injured, or kills or injures another person. Social host laws vary from state-to-state. In some states, social host liability is covered under dram shop laws. Limitations to dram shop laws normally only cover commercial service and not private parties. Social host civil liability refers to laws allowing an injured third party to sue social hosts for injuries caused by their drinking guests. Laws about hosting underage drinking parties are strong if they include negligence, or recklessness at various property types — outdoor, residence or other, and for possession, consumption, or for intention to possess or consume.

The strongest social host laws are common law, common law and statutory law, or statutory law with no limitations. Social host laws are considered weaker if they exempt family or a resident of a household, if they require knowledge or an overt act. The law is weaker if they include limitations on who may be sued, or limitations on elements or standards of proof. Some communities have “response cost recovery ordinances” where fines to party hosts will cover costs of enforcement and emergency medical services (Paschall, Lipperman-Kreda, Grube, & Thomas, 2014).   

Hawai‘i Law

In Hawai‘i, it is unlawful for an adult to provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 and/or knowingly permit a minor to possess or consume alcohol on their property under their control. Penalties for violating this law include a misdemeanor offense. Hawaii Revised Statute § 281-101.5, Hawaii Revised Statute § 712-1250.5. Residence, outdoor, other types of properties are covered by this liability law. Exception(s): Family (SAMHSA STOP ACT report, 2015). In 2013, the law was amended by requiring a “reckless rather than a “knowing state” of mind for the misdemeanor crime of promoting intoxicating liquor to a person under 21 years old.

Causal Domain 

Economic availability 
Retail availability 
Social availability 
Promotion & media 
Community norms 

Discussion of effectiveness 

Summary Indicator:

Yellow pie chart, 80% filled. Varied evidence of effectiveness, systematic review, meta-analysis.

Indicator of effectiveness:
Not effectivered circle. 
Varied evidence of effectivenessyellow circle. 
Effectivegreen circle. 
Strength of evidence: 
No evidence foundempty pie chart 
Grey literature16% filled pie chart. 
Single published study33% filled pie chart. 
Numerous published studies58% filled pie chart. 
Systematic review, meta-analysis83% filled pie chart. 
Cochrane Review, Community Guide, NREPP100% filled pie chart. 

A study estimated the effect of social host laws involving 18-20 year-olds and found a reduction in drunk driving traffic fatalities by 9% (Dills, 2010). It was thought that the reduction was from a decrease in drunk driving rather than from drinking less. Further, a systematic review identified these laws might reduce heavy episodic drinking and drunk driving among adolescents drinkers. Another study of the effects of social host laws on underage drinking in 50 California cities concluded that social host laws with strict liability and civil penalties imposed administratively may be associated with less frequent underage drinking in private settings, among teens who already drink alcohol (Paschall, Lipperman-Kreda, Grube, & Thomas, 2014). However, a 2012 review of the research on current social host liability policies found that social host policies are variable and enforcement is not consistent. More research is required to develop a measure of policy strength (Wagoner et al., 2012).

Implementation in Hawai‘i

StrategyLocationTime PeriodCoalition
Social Host OrdinanceMaui County2017 - PresentMaui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth




Description of strategy


  • Davies, H. H., Liang, L., Sloan, F. A., & Stout, E. M. (2000). Reducing harmful alcohol related behaviors: effective regulatory methods. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 61(3), 402.
  • Dills, A. K. (2010). Social host liability for minors and underage drunk-driving accidents. Journal of Health Economics, 29 (2), 241–249.
  • Fell, J, Scherer, M, Thomas, S., & Voas, R. (2016). Assess the impact of twenty underage drinking laws. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77, 249 260.
  • Paschall, J., Lipperman-Kreda, S., Grube, J., & Thomas, S. (2014). Relationships between social host laws and underage drinking: findings from a study of 50 California cities. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 75, 901-907.
  • Saltz, R. F., Paschall, M. J., McGaffigan, R. P., & Nygaard, P.M. O. (2010). Alcohol risk management in college settings: the safer California universities randomized trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39, 491-499.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016, September). Report to Congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking (Vol. 1). Retrieved from:
  • Wagoner, K., Francisco, V., Sparks, M., Wyrick, D., Nichols, T., & Wolfson, M. (2012). A review of social host policies focused on underage drinking parties: suggestions for future research. Journal of Drug Education, 42 (1), 99–117.
  • Whetten-Goldstein, K., Sloan, F. A., Stout, E., & Liang, L. (2000). Civil liability, criminal law, and other policies and alcohol related motor vehicle fatalities in the United States: 1984–1995. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 32(6), 723–733.