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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What is a Social Host?

MADD Targets Adults Who Knowingly Allow Underage Alcohol Consumption

A social host is an adult who knowingly or unknowingly entertains underage drinkers on property that they own, lease or otherwise control. Because of social host liability laws, adults can be held responsible for these parties, no matter who furnishes the alcohol.

The primary setting for underage drinking for high school and college students are teen parties– where a high consumption of alcohol and binge drinking takes place. Lake houses "where no one will know," ranches "where no one will care" and woods "where it just doesn’t matter" are common popular locations for teenage drinking parties. However, the most familiar setting amongst high school seniors for drinking is just someone else’s home.

Holding Adults Responsible
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), underage drinking is not just a youth problem; it is also very much an adult problem. Consider adults who purchase alcohol for those under age 21; pretend not to hear when teens brag about their drinking exploits; and host teenage drinking parties in their homes. It's obvious that many communities struggle to prevent underage drinking.

A proactive step for concerned communities is to hold adults responsible for underage drinking parties, is but can be difficult. Police officers are usually not able to determine who provided the alcohol when they arrive on the scene of a teenage drinking party. Therefore, it can be hard to enforce laws that prohibit furnishing alcohol to youth under 21 years old.

A practical tool for holding adults accountable are social host ordinances, which allow law enforcement to cite the individual who hosted the underage drinking party on their property. Over 150 cities or counties and 24 states have enacted social host ordinances.

Social Host Ordinance Benefits
Social host ordinances offer a number of benefits to communities, including:
• Dissuade adults and youth under age 21 from hosting parties where underage drinking is occurring
• Increase the awareness of underage drinking parties and offering an incentive for hosts to be watchful for underage consumption of alcohol
• Encourage parents to prevent teenage drinking parties when they are not home
• Hold underage youth accountable for underage drinking parties planned without the knowledge of their parents
• Recover law enforcement costs of repeatedly responding to the same party site
• Officially establish a community’s "zero-tolerance" policy for underage drinking

Taking Action
To proactively prevent underage drinking and help save more lives, MADD vehemently encourages communities to enact and enforce social host laws to prevent underage drinking. To learn more about how your community can take action to enact a social host law, click here.

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