Underage Drinking & the Law

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

‘Politics as Unusual’: SD Social Host bill defeated this morning

SD Sen Larry lucas

SD Sen. Larry Lucas, the primary sponsor of the bill.

South Dakota’s proposed Social Host amendment SB94 was defeated in the Senate State Affairs committee meeting in a 5-4 vote this morning. In an interview with the primary sponsor, Sen. Larry Lucas, he claimed the defeat was due to partisan politics and not the merits of the bill. If so, that makes this “politics as unusual.” SB94 was co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of 12 Senators and 23 Representatives. South Dakota has only 35 Senators and 70 Representatives in total so it is uncommon for a bill that is co-sponsored by one-third of the legislature to be rejected this early in the process. Sen. Lucas plans to revise the bill and resubmit it this legislative session.

Social Host laws are a group of criminal and civil laws aimed at the people (the host) who control the location (house, apartment, business, fraternity house) where underage drinking has occurred. It’s a law targeting inaction or passivity. They aren’t the same as furnishing laws, which penalize the person who serves, purchases or provides alcohol to minors. Sometimes, the Social Host law is passed as an additional section to the existing furnishing law. The proposed South Dakota law is an example of that.

Michael Glynn whose death in 2006 inspired the proposed amendment.

Michael Glynn whose death in 2006 inspired the proposed amendment.

The bill has been championed by Joyce Glynn, a resident of White River S.D., who lost her 18-year-old son Michael in 2006 the morning after his graduation party in a single vehicle car crash. According to news reports, he was speeding and driving while drunk. The family has started a memorial fund in his name. Further information is available on Facebook at the Michael Glynn Memorial Coalition. The website listed on the Facebook page is inactive.

Although Social Host laws and ordinances are currently in effect in approximately two-thirds of states, they are not without controversy. The three main reasons they are considered controversial are they require no physical evidence so liability is based on your ownership or lease of the property; they are often overly broad in their definition of what is prohibited behavior which is why there have been several constitutional challenges; and the definition of who is responsible has expanded from adults present at a party where teen drinking is in plain sight to anyone of any age, even if they’re not present at the time of the event. To learn more about Social Host legislation visit the FAQ page of SocialHostLaw.com. To find out about Social Host laws in your state, visit Social Host Laws by State.

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