Underage Drinking & the Law

What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws

In Minnesota: “Social host bill gets unsocial reception”

When I first read the Chaska Herald‘s headline, I naively assumed that the pendulum in Minnesota was starting to swing the other way. I was wrong. Why I am I surprised? After all, Minnetonka, Minnesota is where a passive law was first proposed in 2009: to prosecute adults who host gatherings where conditions are “ripe” for underage drinking but don’t take steps to stop it. (The final amended version can be found here.)

Well, I was wrong. Proponents want to tighten the new state bill that applies only to adults 21 and older. They also want to remove the requirement that the alcohol cause intoxication and expand it to include one teen handing one beer to another teen.

Social Host rules have already closed the loophole of evidence-based prosecution; for example, under the previous laws police would need to prove who had purchased the alcohol to identify who was responsible. Now, here comes the orgy of overreach. Why limit the law’s grasp to those who can legally purchase alcohol. If the minors are drinking in a private residence, that’s enough proof to charge the renter or owner or dependent of the owner of that residence, even if it’s an 18-year-old who is hosting a party for other 18 year olds.

A favorite quote comes from Lindsey Carlson, youth programs specialist for MADD – Minnesota. “It’s MADD’s position that social host laws will be more effective if done on a local level…A statewide law takes the community accountability and buy-in away because it makes the issue less personal,” Carlson stated, in an e-mail. Right – because law enforcement based on personal beliefs is so much better than one based on…the law of evidence.


To learn more:

Social host bill gets unsocial receptionChaska Herald – February 17, 2011. Byline: Editor Mark Olson

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