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Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs


If a child is sold or given liquor on licensed premises, both the child and the licensee, and any other person who supplies the child, have committed an offence. Liquor can be supplied at meals in the presence of a child but cannot be served to the child. Children cannot enter or remain on premises where a late night permit or an entertainment venue licence is in place or licensed areas which are declared out of bounds to minors [Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (SA) s 112]. In these situations, a sign should be displayed prohibiting access to minors.

It is illegal for minors to consume alcohol in any public place unless they are with a parent or guardian. At a party in a private house, it is not an offence to supply children with alcohol but a responsible adult should serve it to minimise the risk of over consumption. These informal situations are permitted so long as the alcohol is not sold to minors or payment is required as a condition of attending the party.

Although it is not illegal for teenagers to consume alcohol at a party held at a private residence this does not mean that there are no further legal implications. If no parents or responsible adults are present then there can be long-reaching implications for any consequences that arise as a result of the teenagers’ alcohol consumption. For example, if there is an injury or property damage a lack of supervision will be a factor in establishing negligence.

Parents hosting a party for teenagers need to be aware of any insurance and legal implications of serving alcohol to teenagers. Currently the law in South Australia does not require parental consent for a child to be allowed alcohol in a private residence, but it is a sensible precaution to advise other parents that alcohol will be available at the party so they can make an informed decision about whether to let their child attend or what restrictions they wish to place on their attendance.

As with any person inviting others onto their property, a duty of care exists for the occupier (i.e. host) to take measures to avoid any reasonably foreseeable harm to those invited. With the popularity of social networking gatecrashing of teenage parties has become a new phenomenon and a duty of care can extend to trespassers under s 20(6) of the Civil Liability Act 1936 (SA). Despite not being invited onto the premises, there may still be a duty of care if they are exposed to danger that was reasonably foreseeable and no action was taken by the occupier to avoid it. For this reason it is essential to have a plan in place to deal with emergencies.

See also Gatecrashing - trespassing at private parties and our Young People and Parties factsheet.

Under the Public Intoxication Act 1984 (SA) the police can apprehend anyone (including a child) if they believe he or she is under the influence of alcohol and by reason of that fact is unable to take proper care of themselves. The police can then take him or her home or to a police station or sobering up centre. Where reasonably possible, the parents or guardians of a child who is detained should be contacted and special arrangements should be made to keep the child away from contact with adults who are detained at the same place [ss 6,7].

See further our Young People and Alcohol factsheet.


It is an offence with a fine up to $5000 to sell, lend or give tobacco products to a person under 18 years [Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997 (SA) s 38A]. A customer who is suspected of being under 18 years old may be requested to show proof of their age [s 39], and it is offence to refuse or give a false statement or identification [s39(2)].

See further our Young People and Cigarettes factsheet.

Other drugs

Under the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) it is an offence to consume, possess, manufacture, sell or supply any controlled (an unlawful) drug. There are many other offences about the use and manufacture of drugs and even synthetic drugs and drug alternatives see more in the section on Drug Offences.

Young offenders are dealt with differently to adults with regards to drug offences and possible sentencing options exist include informal or formal police cautions or Family Conferences (see Young offenders). However, the option of an expiation notice for a simple cannabis possession offence does not apply [s 45A(2)].

Drug offences committed against children are taken very seriously and extremely heavy penalties can apply. The sale, supply or administration of a controlled drug to a child or in a school zone attracts a maximum penalty of $1 000 000 or life imprisonment or both [Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) ss 33F and 33G].

See further our Young People and Drugs factsheet.

Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs  :  Last Revised: Wed Sep 13th 2017
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.