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Social Host Ordinance

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What is a social host ordinance? A social host ordinance is a local, city-specific law intended to hold individuals responsible for hosting or knowingly providing a place for underage drinking. Violators could be cited and fined under the City’s Social Host Liability Ordinance.

Why does Palos Verdes Estates need a social host ordinance? The rate of underage teen drinking in the peninsula communities is significant according to the “PV Healthy Kids Survey 2015-16,” in which 26% of 11th graders in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District reported alcohol or drug use within the past 30 days.  The same Survey revealed that 60% of 11th graders obtained alcohol at parties or events outside of school, while 20% obtained alcohol from adults at friends’ homes.  Steps must be taken now to keep the youth in our community safe and healthy.

What is a social host ordinance in Palos Verdes Estates designed to achieve? The goal is to decrease under- age drinking by reducing what research   has shown is a primary source of youth access to alcohol- parties and gatherings in homes and other locations. Often at these events, underage drinkers obtain alcohol through older friends and adults.

Social host ordinances have been implemented in many other communities in California and across the U.S. They encourage adults to avoid unsafe environments that foster high-risk, destructive behavior. They assist families in making healthy decisions and provide underage youth with support to avoid peer-pressure situations. They also give law enforcement a vital tool to prevent tragedy and address underage drinking locally.

Are social host ordinances effective? We believe they can be. Because social host ordinances have only recently been implemented, research to quantitatively measure effectiveness levels is not yet available. However, these laws send a powerful message and have great potential for reducing youth alcohol access. When they are well publicized and enforced, social host liability laws are recognized as effective practices by leading prevention and re- search institutions. As of November of 2016, 32 states have enacted social hosting laws.  In addition, over 150 cities and counties have adopted social host laws.  Locally, the cities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Rancho Palos Verdes have passed similar ordinances.

Isn't underage drinking already illegal? So why do we need a social host ordinance? It is illegal to provide alcohol to individuals under age 21, and state law does provide a misdemeanor criminal section for those who furnish alcohol to underage drinkers. However, the law is very broad, making prosecution through the court system costly and time consuming. When taking enforcement action, it is preferable to use a local regulation that is specific to a violation. A social host ordinance is very specific.

If I host a party where alcohol is served how can I avoid breaking the law? It’s simple. Don’t allow minors to drink alcohol.

  • Verify Age – You have a responsibility to know how old everyone is at your party.
  • Control Access – keep alcohol away from underage persons at your party.
  • Supervise –You MUST supervise the activities of underage persons in attendance and ensure they’re NOT drinking.

If the social host fails to take reasonable steps to prevent alcohol consumption by the underage person or persons on property they control, they could be found in violation of the ordinance.

What happens if I find underage drinkers at a party I am hosting? If you discover that underage people are drinking at your party, ask them to stop. If they refuse, you may have to call the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department. You are not in violation of the ordinance if you ask for help from the police immediately and took reasonable steps to ensure underage persons were not consuming alcohol.

Aren’t kids going to drink anyway? Isn't it better to provide an environment that is safe? The attitude that underage drinking is a "rite of passage" for teens needs to change. Research overwhelmingly shows that there is an increase in sexual assaults, teen pregnancy, youth violence, rape and death when underage youth are allowed to drink. The thinking by parents, adults and kids that alcohol use by underage teens in any environment is "okay" must be altered.

How are social host ordinances enforced? What are the penalties? When police department personnel respond to an event where underage persons are gathering, and through the normal course of an investigation, they are able to determine underage alcohol consumption exists; the individual host of the social event can be issued a citation and charged with violating the social host ordinance.

A social host does not have to be 21 years of age to be in violation of the law. Social host violations carry a fine of $2,500 for the first offense. A second violation (within a 12-month period) carries a fine of $5,000 and a third offense (within a 12-month period) carries a fine of $7,500. You may also be held liable for injuries sustained by third parties as a result of a guest’s negligence. A social host can also be liable for the cost of responding law enforcement services.

Won't a social host ordinance increase police authority to enter private property? No. Cities cannot enact a law that grants police officers with greater authority to enter a person's property than already exists under Federal law.

What if there is a medical emergency involving an underage drinker? Won't party hosts be reluctant to call 9-1-1 because of a social host ordinance, thereby endangering lives? No. California's "Good Samaritan" law (AB 472) provides legal immunity for anyone who reports an accidental overdose of alcohol or drugs. If an underage drinker needs medical help, parents or adults who contact authorities are not subject to criminal charges or a social host ordinance citation.

Who supports a social host ordinance in Palos Verdes Estates? Many residents and community members support the City’s ordinance. This includes the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, Palos Verdes Peninsula Council of PTA’s, school administrators and teachers, law enforcement, health care providers, emergency responders, residents and community members.

Click here for the official ordinance.