Unintended Consequences of Celebrating New Year’s Eve

If you are planning to celebrate the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 you are obviously aware of the consequences of drinking too much (a hangover) of driving drunk (a DUI conviction) and of kissing the wrong person (use your imagination here.) Yet there are two other consequence of celebrating New Year’s Eve that you may not be aware of, prison and a wrongful death lawsuit. You can cheer, dance, raise a glass and even kiss your honey but you must be a responsible host and you cannot shoot a gun into the air.

Addressing the first unknown consequence, prison. Arizona enacted Shannon’s Law in 2000 which means it is illegal to fire a gun into the air. (See A.R.S. 13-3107) If you do so you can be charged with a class 6 dangerous felony and you WILL go to prison for somewhere between 1.5 years to 3 years, with NO possibility of probation. Law enforcement, including the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, take this law very seriously and there is often no compromise.

You may believe that there is no harm shooting into the air but tell that to Shannon Smith’s parents who had to bury their 14 year old daughter who was hit by a stray bullet in June of 1999. Remember, bullets that go up must come down. Law enforcement has the ability to track when a firearm is shot on New Year’s Eve and its a safe bet they will use it this year. Here is some good advice, leave your guns locked up on New Year’s Eve. If you have your gun out you may be more inclined to use it, especially when your judgement is compromised by alcohol and drugs.

The second consequence that you may not have thought about is the liability that comes with hosting a party. Imagine you are having some friends over to celebrate the end of 2013 and you are serving food and alcoholic drinks. Further imagine that four hours later, after enjoying the food and cocktails your guest drives off and hits and injures or kills another person. You could face both criminal and civil consequences. Yes, you could face prison time and a lifetime of paying a debt that will never go away.

At one extreme you could be charged criminally with Negligent Homicide, a class 4 felony, and face several years in prison. At the other end you could be sued for Wrongful Death by the family of a person killed by your guest and have to pay financially for a debt that will never end. You may say “this wouldn’t happen to me, my friends would never throw me under the bus.” Newsflash, it wouldn’t be your friends pushing for the consequences, it would be law enforcement and the survivors.

The same goes whether the victim is injured or killed. You could be charged as an accomplice to a criminal offense and sued for any and all injuries and property damage. Note two things, if your guest just causes property damage you can be on the hook for that and you can still be charged civilly for harm even if there are no criminal charges.

Here is my advice, offer your guests to stay at your home for the night. Or, if that is not viable, set up a driver service for the evening. At a minimum I recommend educating your guests on the use of Uber and write the number for several taxi companies on the door of your house. Lastly, watch your guests and take care of them, be a good and responsible host.

Have fun, celebrate, and be merry; AND protect your guests and yourself. Be smart and think ahead so that 2014 will be wonderful and spent with friends/family and not spent in prison and the courtroom.

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monica k. lindstrom
Monica K. Lindstrom
Monica has had a diverse and successful legal career, which has led her to focus her practice on mediation. She has made the shift from zealously advocating for her clients to compassionately helping others resolve their disputes.

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