Student Legal Services

Hosting or attending a party is a common college experience. It is a time to enjoy the company of friends, meet new people, and generally to eat, drink, and be merry. The below information is designed to inform you of potential legal consequences of hosting or attending a party where alcohol is served.

Both host and guest should be aware that local ordinances, state and federal laws, as well as, University regulations govern the circumstances that often arise with the distribution of alcohol. A working knowledge of these regulations means that the people involved can make informed decisions about their behavior and actions at a party.

Any party, with or without alcohol being served, risks problems with noise violations, disorderly conduct, littering or potential lease violations. Add alcohol to this scenario, and the risks drastically increase to include criminal violations such as serving alcohol to a minor. Knowing how to insulate yourself from liability allows you to host or attend a party and have a good time, without creating these potential risks.

If the Police Come to Your Party

First and foremost, be polite. Being aggressive or surly with the police will only make matters worse for yourself. Identify yourself as the host and if you are requested to do so, show some sort of identification. Remember that the police must have either a search warrant or consent to enter your house. If you are arrested, don’t resist or try to avoid the police.

This causes you to be liable for resisting arrest. Most importantly, don’t say anything: you have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to answer any questions the police ask unless you have an attorney present.  If you do, anything that you say can and will be used against you.


This section describes criminal offenses that often result from irresponsible party behavior. Most of these offenses are misdemeanors which carry a maximum penalty of 93-days in jail and/or a fine of $500.

Consumption of Alcohol in Public

Consuming alcohol on any public property, including but not limited to streets, sidewalks, and public buildings, is prohibited.

Open Intoxicant

You are prohibited from possessing, in a public place such as a street or sidewalk, a container of alcohol which is open, uncapped, or has a broken seal.

Consumption or Possession by a Minor

The state and city prohibit minors from possessing or consuming any intoxicating liquors. Fines, potential jail time, and suspension of driver’s license may result.

Serving Alcohol to a Minor

If, as a host, you knowingly allow a minor to consume or possess alcohol at a social gathering, or you don’t make a serious inquiry into the age of the person drinking, you may be liable for 30-days of jail time and/or a $1,000 fine.

Urinating in Public

You are prohibited from urinating where someone else can see you, or on any public property, including alleys behind bars.

Fraudulent Identification

Possession or use of a fake ID exposes you to suspension of your driver’s license for 90-days, as well as, other criminal penalties.

Assault, Battery, Criminal Sexual Conduct

Irresponsible use of alcohol often results in violent or aggressive behavior. Offensive or hurtful conduct may result in a misdemeanor or even felony charge of assault and battery or rape.

Noise Violations

The City of Ann Arbor has very strict and pervasive noise regulations. Generally, any noises which are out of the ordinary, which bother or annoy anyone outside of your leased space, including those in another apartment in the building, and which are made between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM, may expose you to criminal penalties.

Littering Violations

Under the city code, a person in control of residential property may be fined if they do not keep the property free from litter. Under State law, it is a misdemeanor to litter on either public or private property. Individuals frequently receive citations for littering when they throw or place an alcoholic beverage on the ground, in an attempt to avoid an alcohol citation.

Know Your Risks

Before you expose yourself to criminal violations, review the risks: understand that beyond criminal penalties, the criminal process requires the investment of time a student might make better use of and potentially results in damage to self-esteem, reputation, and a criminal record which could jeopardize your future career.


In addition to the criminal liabilities outlined above, parties often give rise to civil liabilities, typically those listed below.

Lease Violations

Your lease may have clauses which allow the landlord to commence eviction proceedings for certain criminal violations. These include use and/or sale of illegal drugs, serving alcohol to a minor, and potentially even consumption of alcohol by a minor.


Responsibility and moderation are the keys to enjoying a party without the unfortunate result of police intervention. Keeping in mind the risks of irresponsible alcohol or drug use, as well as the responsibilities both the guest and host must accept, allows the enjoyment of the party without disruptions from violent behavior or police intervention.