Advocacy group seek support for the social host law
The Healthy Communities that Care Coalition of Livingston County is seeking support for the creation of a social host law, making it illegal to provide space for underage drinking to take place.
Law enforcement officials would no longer have to prove who provided the alcohol. Rather, they could charge whoever was in control of the property where underage drinking took place.
Under the proposed law, adults would not be responsible for hosting the party if they are away from home and it was held without their knowledge. A teen or another person in control of the house could be cited for hosting the party — in addition to possessing alcohol.
Program Coordinator Rachel Pena assures that a social host law does not infringe upon Fourth Amendment rights, nor does it interfere with a parent’s right to give alcohol to their own children (religious rites).
When it comes to underage drinking, the current New York State law (Unlawfully Dealing with a Child) is limited. “…we are not stopping the root of the problem – which is the party itself,” said Pena. A social host law would “provide more accountability to the people hosting these parties.”
Nationwide, one-third of teens report that they can easily obtain alcohol (knowingly) from their own parents. This increases to 40 percent when the alcohol is from a friend’s parent. Furthermore, one in four teens say they have attended a party where underage drinking is taking place in front of parents.
In Livingston County, according to a 2010 survey, 37 percent of youth ages 12-18 report they have had alcohol at least once. Furthermore, 21 percent of respondents admit to drinking within the past 30 days and 10 percent report binge drinking.
“I believe having a social host law in the Village of Geneseo will make our community safer, because it will provide an additional tool for law enforcement to use in addressing underage drinking.” said Geneseo police chief Eric Osganian.
“Having a social host law will bring accountability to those that are hosting underage drinking parties and will assist us and the community in dealing with the underage drinking issue.”
Thirteen counties — including Monroe and Ontario — and 33 New York communities already have social host laws in place.
According to research done by the coalition, social host laws — in all 50 states — were associated with reductions in heavy drinking and drunk driving. In fact, a 2010 study showed that among 18-20 year olds, social host laws for minors reduced the drunk driving rate by nine percent
The last community/parent survey, conducted in Fall 2010, appears to show local support for a social host law. In that survey, 76 percent of parents supported more severe penalties for parents who host underage drinking parties.
The Healthy Communities that Care Coalition of Livingston County has created a letter of support for the law – which has been signed by community members and the Sheriff’s Department.
However, the next step is to gain the District Attorney’s support. The District Attorney would then work with the County Attorney to draft a law resolution — which would be brought to the Board of Supervisors. In all likelihood, a public hearing would be held on this issue as well.
Rachel Pena estimates that the law could be passed within the next six-to-nine months. Until then, the coalition will continue to educate community members on the issue and encourage them to discuss it with their local leaders.