Beginning July 1, every police and sheriff’s department in Iowa will have an additional tool to help reduce underage drinking: a social host law.
During the 2014 Iowa legislative session, through the efforts of numerous community members, prevention coalitions and Iowa legislators, the statewide social host law was sent to Gov. Terry Branstad, who later signed it into law. This means that when an adult knows youth 17 years old or younger are drinking in the homes, buildings or on property the adult owns, leases or rents – and the adult does nothing to stop it – he or she can be charged with a simple misdemeanor and fined $200. The social host law does not apply to landlords/managers of such property or juveniles who lawfully handle alcohol in their employment, or their managers.
The state social host law does not affect those social host ordinances already enacted by counties and cities.
An overwhelming majority of youth – 90 percent – reported that their parents did not want them to drink alcohol without their permission, according to the 2012 Iowa Youth Survey. In the same survey, obtaining alcohol at parties was identified as the most common way for Van Buren County youth to obtain alcohol. Some local community activists have been promoting social host ordinances at the city and state level for a number of years to address this condition.
Preventing youth from experiencing the personal heartache that is a consequence of underage drinking – in the form of accidents, sexual assaults, violence,unplanned pregnancy or alcohol poisoning – will always be a worthwhile endeavor. The social host law will be one more tool to reduce youth access to alcohol.