Underage Drinking & the Law

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

Constitutional challenge in St. Cloud; hundreds impacted.

St. Cloud’s Social Host Ordinance is an excellent example of what’s wrong with many versions of the law. In an attempt to prevent one type of harm to our children it creates a host of other forms of injury to the very minors we’re trying to protect and to the adults who care for them. The ordinance in its current form doesn’t just target adult home owners/renters whether they were present and aware and complicit — or not; it also targets the very minors who are considered too young or immature to drink in the first place. This seems a tad schizophrenic to me. If they’re too immature to be permitted to drink beer or wine; how is it they’re mature enough to be legally responsible for permitting their friends to drink? Add to that the lack of evidence required by the police to cite someone and we have the makings of an unconstitutional and overly broad law.

Very little thought went into writing and passing St. Cloud’s social host ordinance in 2010; so little that no one noticed it cited the enabling state statute incorrectly. The city attorney’s defense was they had copied the statute wholly from those of other local communities. If a minor did this in an exam, they would be accused of cheating and suspended or expelled.

What fate lies in store for this version of the social host ordinance and the 430 people cited in the 11 weeks between mid-August — when Baqer Yasseen Alsaihati, the young man who’s challenging the ordinance’s constitutionality was cited — and the end of October 2010?  What will happen to the approximately 59 cities and 12 counties with similarly flawed Social Host Laws? It’s all in the hands of Stearns County District Court Judge Mary Mahler.


To learn more:

St. Cloud man challenges social host law, argues ordinance is too broad, vagueSt. Cloud Times – March 19, 2011 – Byline: David Unze

2 comments on “Constitutional challenge in St. Cloud; hundreds impacted.

  1. JamMan16
    March 27, 2011

    Ambiguity always wastes time. A life can be changed forever by an interpretation of intent. If you care enough about a law, St. Cloud, care enough to make it clear for the courts and for the police who must enforce it.

    • H. M. Epstein
      March 27, 2011

      Well said JamMan16! But what if the lawmakers chose ambiguity on purpose? What if they wanted to keep the law as broad as possible?

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