“Social Host Law” doesn’t stop underage drinking, officials say

In 2008, Dutchess County adopted the state of New York’s “Social Host Law.” The law says that any adult – 18 years of age or older – will face consequences for allowing anyone under 21 years old to drink alcohol at their residence. The basic idea was to hold those over 18 responsible whenever they permitted the consumption of alcohol by minors. The only exception to the rule would be if a parent gave their express permission to their own children to drink alcoholic beverages in their presence, or as part of a religious observance. The first criminal offense would carry consequences anywhere from a fine of $250 up to a year in a jail.

Some of our neighboring counties have passed local ordinances expanding these “Social Host Laws” to create more of a deterrent by enacting more stringent liability laws to make prosecution easier. They include fines for selling beer at a keg party without a license and violating open container laws. Some communities sentence parents with fines and citations for knowingly allowing any person under 21 to drink alcohol at their house, regardless of who provided it. One county wants to create criminal and financial consequences for parents who simply don’t do enough to prevent underage drinking parties at their home. In other words, Mom and Dad’s can’t go on vacation and leave their high schoolers at home alone.

These laws are in response to surveys conducted last year that show one in three high school students reported that they drank in the past month. Authorities say that locales that have already passed such laws have witnessed drops in teen parties, underage drinking and impaired driving by minors.

Source: Evening Tribune.com, “Council urges Allegany County to pass Social Host legislation,” Kathryn Ross, April 8, 2012

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