Underage Drinking & the Law

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

Miss California Teen USA faces Social Host charges

Miss California Teen USA, Alexa Jones, an 18-year-old minor, was arrested last month under San Diego County’s Social Host Law for allegedly permitting another minor to drink alcohol in a private residence.

San Diego’s News 10 broke the news about Jones’ May 5 arrest earlier today.

Jones, who just finished her freshman year at Cal State San Marcos, has been considered a remarkable young woman for many reasons. She was crowned Miss California Teen USA in January 2012 just two months after her father’s death in a car accident. According to The Pageant Planet, Jones said, “…I knew my dad would want me to push through my grief.”

Jones received the President’s Volunteer Service Award-Gold for her work with several charities, including American Cancer Society, Susan G Komen and Muscular Dystrophy Association.

While the details of her arrest have remained sketchy, we wonder about the application of the Social Host Law in these circumstances. Meant as an additional measure to protect minors from the negative aspects of alcohol consumption, it’s being applied to punish one minor for not preventing another minor’s drinking. Miss Jones has not been charged with serving alcohol, buying alcohol or even consuming it.

Isn’t it time we made up our minds as a society about our goals with these laws? Are they meant to protect minors or to punish them? Can anyone explain to us why arresting an accomplished young woman like Alexa Jones protects her or her party guests in any way. All we see is the tarnishing of a reputation and the asterisk that will forever appear next to her name in pageant records.

6 comments on “Miss California Teen USA faces Social Host charges

  1. Robert Hall
    December 18, 2012

    The social host law in San Diego County holds party hosts responsible for underage drinking. Please note that Ms. Jones is an adult. Also please note that under that ordinance, a party host has four common-sense duties.
    1. Know the age of your party guests.
    2. Control the quantity of alcohol available at your party.
    3. Control the access to alcohol at your party.
    4. Supervise the activities of anyone under 21 who attends your party.
    If these duties were met, party hosts are not cited. The Sheriff’s Department has been very careful in issuing Social Host citations; if Ms. Jones did not violate the law, this would be the first time that the law was incorrectly applied. I don’t know how this case was resolved. However, make it a teachable moment. If you host a party, don’t allow underage drinking there. If you’re in an area with a social host ordinance, you might get a fine, or even jail time. You might end up with a misdemeanor conviction, which can be bad news. Whether another pageant contestant or a neighbor tipped the TV station about the story is immaterial. Underage drinking is dangerous, period. Holding party hosts accountable is an effective way to prevent underage drinking. Don’t take my word for it. Please check the MADD website.

    • HM Epstein
      December 18, 2012

      Mr. Hall, I hope you can see the contradiction when Ms. Jones is simultaneously viewed as both an adult and a minor under the same law. It is problematic to say the least. She was 18 when cited under the Social Host law. Therefore, she is considered a minor, meaning under the age of 21, and the law views her as too immature to make decisions for herself regarding alcohol. However since she is at least 18, the law also views her as an adult when it comes to her liability for the behavior of others regarding alcohol. Ms. Jones was not accused of serving alcohol, buying alcohol or even drinking alcohol. She was accused of not stopping others in her home from consuming alcohol. And while this citation/arrest was accurate under the law as written, it is a terribly written law, inconsistent and contradictory, and therefore difficult to uphold. Finally, we wonder who leaked the information to Channel 10 a full month after the incident. Don’t you?

  2. trendtipper
    June 8, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this story on your blog and putting in your opinion at the end. I personally have met Alexa a number of times at pageant events and I consider her a pageant sister of mine. She is a sweet and accomplished young lady with a future filled with great options for her.

    This is going to be a difficult one to explain to Mr. Trump. I personally do not believe the story was handled well on 10 News hand, because they failed to include information about the law (as you listed) and the questions about whether she served alcohol or was it brought into her home without being aware of it.

    Plus, the fact that someone tipped 10 News a month after the incident occurred sounds very suspicious.

    • SocialHostLaw.com
      June 8, 2012

      I agree that the timing seems suspicious. If Alexa wishes to comment, please tell her we will print her comments without editing.

      • Robert Hall
        December 18, 2012

        It may have taken 10News a month to gather the details of the case. The Sheriff’s Department might not have released the details until it was appropriate to do so. Even if the station was tipped off by a pageant rival, a neighbor, or some other person, what, exactly, is “suspicious?” Unless someone thinks that a 10News employee timed the release of this story to hurt Ms. Jones’ chances in the upcoming pageant, there’s nothing suspicious about the timing of the story. Underage drinking is a serious topic. The public (as well as policymakers) need to understand the problems created by underage drinking, and how Social Host laws can reduce those problems.

        • HM Epstein
          December 18, 2012

          My understanding is that the TV station did refer to a tip. Television news is a fast-moving medium, especially now that it competes with the 24-hour internet news cycle. TV news may spend a month doing investigative reporting about an important and complex story, like official corruption or fiscal irresponsibility. As a journalist, I can assure you they would never spend a month investigating the arrest of a pageant contestant for underage drinking.

          Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe underage drinking is a very important subject. Kids shouldn’t drink. When they do, however, it should be something every parent takes seriously and addresses. The most frightening aspect of underage drinking is that it is most often done secretly, with abusive quantities and little understanding of the consequences. As a society, our laws should provide supportive resources to our ground troops, the parents. Social Host Laws do the opposite; they penalize the parents when kids disobey their rules.

          Finally, Mr. Hall, how do SHOs reduce underage drinking as you suggest? They may but after over eight years of researching and writing about the topic, we haven’t seen one reliable, objective study done on the impact of Social Host laws. Unfortunately, there are two insurmountable problems: every community defines social hosting differently and no one has identified the parameters that are to be measured. Is a SHO successful when it results in more arrests or fewer? When the parties are more successfully hidden or don’t even occur? Perhaps when underage drinking rates drop? Well, they have, rather consistently over the past 35 years and started long before any SHO was conceived. Underage drinking rates are at historic lows. See the national statistics at https://socialhostlaw.wordpress.com/statistics/charts-graphs-reports/

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