Student Legal Services, Inc.

Criminal Matters - The Party Guide

Hosting or attending a party is an excellent time to talk with old friends, meet new friends, listen to music, eat and drink. If alcohol is served, remember that most successful parties do not focus on alcohol consumption. Parties are more fun without arrests, property damage or personal injuries. This information is designed to provide you with information about the legal consequences of hosting a party and to assist you in making informed choices. You should seriously consider these consequences, because you will bear the responsibility for your choices.

The first decision you will make is whether to serve alcohol. If you choose to serve alcohol, be aware that there are University regulations as well as local, state and federal laws governing its use. The University of Toledo’s Student Code describes the disciplinary sanctions of illegal drug and alcohol use. Every fall semester each student receives a copy of health risks, federal, state and local laws, University sanctions, a University policy statement and sources for referral.

When used responsibly at a well-organized event, alcohol may contribute to a good time. Irresponsible alcohol and drug use, however, are likely to bring detrimental results such as poor academic performance, strained social relations and legal difficulties. These legal difficulties may include criminal penalties, civil damages and University sanctions. 

Know the Perils of Having a Party

Anytime you host a party you risk problems with: 

  • Noise violations
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Littering
  • Improper parking
  • Lease violations

In the event alcohol is served, the risks increase dramatically to include criminal law violations such as:

  • Furnishing alcohol to an underage person
  • Hosting a public party without an alcohol permit

Likewise, you may be liable for money damages if an underage person obtains alcohol at your party and that person later causes property damage or personal injury to another. Of course, an underage guest also may be charged criminally with possession or consumption of alcohol.


You have a duty to follow the laws of your city, state and nation, together with the policies of the University. If you neglect this duty, you may face certain penalties including, without limitation, fines, jail or expulsion from school. The following section describes several alcohol-related criminal offenses and penalties which typically result from a poorly planned party.

1. Furnishing alcohol to an underage person
Party hosts risk fines, imprisonment and a criminal record when furnishing alcohol to a person they know or should know is not 21 years of age. You may serve alcohol only to persons 21 years old or older. If you fail to take precautions to prohibit access to alcohol by an underage person you are criminally liable for furnishing alcohol to that underage person. If convicted of this crime, you face maximum penalties of 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

2. Underage possession
The minimum age in Ohio for possession or consumption of an alcoholic beverage is 21 years old. A person who purchases, possesses or consumes alcohol prior to his or her 21st birthday is guilty of a first degree misdemeanor. If convicted of this crime, you face maximum penalties of 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

3. False identification
Possession or display of a fictitious operator's license, likewise, is a first degree misdemeanor. The offense exists when the driver's license is altered or when you present someone else's valid driver's license as your own. The maximum penalties associated with this offense are 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both. Moreover, you may forfeit your driving privileges for one year.

4. Alcohol permit violations
The sale or distribution of alcohol to persons under the age of 21 is illegal. It is also illegal to sell alcohol to persons of any age without a permit or license. Similarly, it is illegal to give away beer at a public party, unless you have the proper alcohol permit. A public party is one open to the general public. A party usually is considered public if the host does not have a guest list, does not know all of the people present or does not limit the size of the party.

5. Driving under the influence
Do not drink alcohol and then drive to or from a party; the risks you take are simply too great. In Ohio, a person may not operate a motor vehicle if impaired by alcohol or drugs. The maximum penalties for this offense include 6 months in jail (you must serve at least 3 days in jail), a $1,000 fine or both. Furthermore, you will forfeit your driving privileges for a minimum of 3 months.

6. Open container
In Ohio, it is illegal to possess in public an open container of alcohol either in public or in a motor vehicle. If convicted of this offense, the maximum penalty is a $100.00 fine. Consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle is a fourth degree misdemeanor with maximum penalties of 30 days imprisonment and/or a $250.00 fine.

7. Excessive noise
To avoid noise control violations, keep doors and windows shut. Both the state and city have laws which prohibit noise pollution. A first time noise violation is a minor misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. A second offense is a fourth degree misdemeanor with maximum penalties of 90 days in jail, a $750 fine or both. Before you expose yourself to a criminal law violation, review the risks such as possible fines, imprisonment, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem and reputation, and a criminal record which could jeopardize your career. If you have any questions or comments regarding the legal consequences of alcohol-related criminal offenses, please contact Student Legal Services.


In addition to the criminal liability explained above, a social host who serves alcohol to an underage person may be civilly liable to third parties for personal injuries and property damage caused by the underage person. For example, if a host serves alcohol to an underage person who then cause a traffic accident which kills someone, the host may be liable for wrongful death damages as well as the damage to the automobiles and other property. Thus, a host who serves alcohol to an underage person may be liable for the damages caused by that person after leaving the party.

During Your Party

As a host you are accountable for your party. In order to avoid underage possession of alcohol, you must check an Ohio driver's license at the place where alcohol is served, as well as monitor the premises to ensure that underage persons are not avoiding your efforts. Moreover, you cannot sell alcohol to anyone unless you have a permit; you also may not sell any commodity to recover the cost of alcohol, nor take up a collection, nor charge an admission.

  • If you have not obtained an "F" permit for serving alcohol, you may not have a public party; thus, you should limit attendance to people you know. You may make your party private by limiting the number of guests, monitoring your guests as they arrive, closing the doors and closing the windows. If your party is private, then the police may not enter your dwelling without a warrant or your consent; so do your best to keep the party private.
  • You should monitor the loudness of your party by periodically checking the level of noise at your property lines. Your party will be quieter if you can keep your guests inside your home. Closing windows and doors will also reduce the noise levels heard by your neighbors.
  • Ensure that sufficient restrooms are available so your guests are not using the outdoors. You also should guard against your guests damaging your property and the landlord's apartment. Do not permit drug use; merely permitting drug abuse is a crime. Finally, be available to answer the phone during the party. If neighbors telephone but are unable to speak with the host, then they usually call the police instead.
  • Moderation is the key to a successful party. If people consume too much alcohol, they are likely to use poor judgment. Poor judgment tends to lead to criminal behavior such as disorderly conduct, property damage, driving under the influence of alcohol, vandalism or acquaintance rape. Excessive consumption of alcohol also may lead to other consequences such as alcoholism, unwanted sexual experiences, missed classes, poor performance on exams, strained relationships and other undesirable results.

Concluding Your Party

Hosts can save their guests considerable trouble and money by insisting that all beer be left at the door. If your guests carry open containers of alcohol on city sidewalks or streets, they will be cited. Clean up all litter immediately. Also, contact your neighbors for their post-party comments.

As your guests begin to leave the party, do not allow those who have consumed alcohol to drive home. Designated drivers literally may be the "life" of your party. If a guest has consumed alcohol, ensure that a designated driver takes that guest home safely. Remind your guests that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs usually will involve more than $1,000, a license suspension and mandatory jail time of at least 3 days if convicted.

Attending a Party

  • As a guest you have an obligation to be considerate to the host and the host's neighbors. Please avoid damaging property or trespassing on other people's property.
  • If you answer the telephone while at a party, contact the host. If a neighbor calls to complain and you hang up, then that neighbor's next call will be to the police.
  • Please be aware of the noise levels you generate, especially when you are traveling to or from a party. Leave your beer at the party; carrying an open container of alcohol on the public sidewalks or streets is a crime. Use the restrooms at the party; using the outdoors is not environmentally safe and may result in charges of disorderly conduct or indecent exposure.
  • Finally, remember that moderation and responsible drinking reduce your risks. When alcohol is not used in moderation, it tends to lead to criminal behavior as well as other social problems.

Police Intervention

  • For a variety of reasons, the police may visit your party. Be courteous to them and obey their orders, including orders to disperse. If you do not cooperate with the police, you increase your chances of receiving a citation for disorderly conduct, failure to disperse, resisting arrest or obstruction of justice. Be aware that the police may issue a citation without any prior warning.
  •  If you have complaints regarding police procedure or conduct, do not aggravate the situation with aggressive or boisterous behavior. Instead, take notes and present this information to your Attorney. Remember names of officers and witnesses and also what happened.
  • If your party is private, the police need a search warrant or your consent to enter your residence. If the police arrest you, stay calm and polite. You should not resist, flee or evade the officers. Remember, you do have the right to remain silent, so inform the police that you do not wish to answer any questions until your attorney is present. This right is important because any admissions or statements you make to the police will be used against you. The law only requires that you identify yourself.

Community Relations

Toledo is your town and you are an integral part of the community. Please respect your town and its residents.

Communicate with the people that will be affected by your party, especially your neighbors. The more consideration and respect you show for your neighbors, the more consideration and respect you will receive from them. You should strive to understand others regardless of their age, race, culture, tradition or political perspective, so that you can resolve differences honestly and directly. You should maintain a safe and attractive place to live, work and obtain an education. Be concerned about the safety and welfare of others, together with the social consequences of your behavior. Show the community that you deserve its trust by carefully operating motor vehicles, carefully using your landlord's property, and carefully using and distributing alcohol.

Last Updated: 6/27/22