Cities, counties taking one more step to keep teens safeNearly everyone knows that it is against the law in Minnesota for young people under age 21 to drink alcohol. But you may not be aware that some city and county governments across the state are taking one more step to keep teens safe and prevent underage drinking.
By: By Crystal Hoepner, Public health, Alexandria Echo Press
Nearly everyone knows that it is against the law in Minnesota for young people under age 21 to drink alcohol. But you may not be aware that some city and county governments across the state are taking one more step to keep teens safe and prevent underage drinking.
As of January 20, 2010, 38 cities and counties have passed social host liability laws, limiting youth access to alcohol.
A social host ordinance does not make it against the law to provide alcohol to those under age 21. That has been illegal for many years. A social host ordinance makes it illegal for someone to knowingly provide an environment on public or private property for underage drinking to take place.
According to many of the adopted ordinances in Minnesota, an adult does not need to even be on the premises when the drinking occurs.
This is probably the biggest concern for particularly parents and home owners, when a social host ordinance has come up for discussion in a community.
Under the ordinance, would a farmer be responsible if teens are having a drinking party out in the farmer’s field? Or, what if college students are renting a home? Will that property owner be held responsible for underage drinking going on?
The answer is that a person cannot be charged under social host if they did not know about the party or gathering. A person who knows or reasonably should know that underage drinking was occurring and did nothing to prevent it will be criminally responsible.
As a misdemeanor, any person found violating the law could face a penalty of time in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
A majority (53.4 percent) of current alcohol users aged 12 to 20 drank at someone else's home the last time they used alcohol, and another 30.3 percent drank in their own home, according to a November 2008 national survey by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Communities continue to educate parents and adults to create an environment where underage drinking is not acceptable so teens can steer clear of illegal or dangerous situations.
Developing laws that hold persons liable when they host underage drinking parties is a way to deter these parties and keep teens safe.
Social host ordinances not only help to reduce teenage drinking it also gives adults, including parents, help for those who feel pressured to host a party for minors who plan to drink. This really gives them another out to say, “I can’t. It’s against the law.”
Minnesota cities and counties with social host ordinances (as of January 15, 2010) include: Albert Lea, Apple Valley, Austin, Baxter, Belle Plaine, Chaska, Cloquet, Crookston, Crystal, Duluth, Elk River, Fairfax, Fergus Falls, Jordan, Kandiyohi County, Kenyon, Lakeville, Mankato, Maple Grove, Minnetonka, Mower County, New Prague, Otsego, Princeton, Prior Lake, Ramsey, Red Wing, Rosemount, Roseville, Savage, St. Paul, Scott County, Shakopee, South St. Paul, Waseca, West St. Paul, Wilkin County and Willmar.
Minnesota cities and counties currently considering social host ordinances (as of January 20, 2010) include: Breckenridge, Chisago County, Kanabec County, Minneapolis and Winona.