Thursday, August 17, 2017

Local Social Host Ordinance FAQ

Q:  Who is a social host?

A:  The ordinance states: A social host is any person who aids, conducts, allows, entertains, organizes, supervises, controls, or permits an event, gathering, or party.  This includes, but is not limited to: a) the person(s) who owns, rents, leases, or otherwise has control of the premises where the event, gathering, or party takes place; b) the person(s) in charge of the premises; or c) the person(s) who organized the event.  If the social host is a juvenile, then the parent(s) of that juvenile will be jointly and severally liable for any violation of this chapter. 

Q:  Does the Social Host Ordinance apply to property owners who are not present and do not know about the underage consumption of alcohol on their property?
A:  The ordinance states:  The social host knowingly permits or allows underage persons to consume alcoholic beverages, and/or controlled substances, and/or prescription drugs; The social host reasonably should know that an underage person or persons has consumed alcoholic beverages, and/or controlled substances, and/or prescription drugs; The social host knowingly permits or allows underage persons to possess an alcoholic beverage, and/or controlled substance(s), and/or prescription drug(s).  A social host who hosts such an event, gathering, or party does not need to be on the premises at the time the prohibited act occurs to be in violation of this chapter. 

A social host has an affirmative defense if the social host took reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages and/or controlled substances, and/or prescription drugs such as contacting law enforcement and allowing officers onto the premises for the purpose of stopping these illegal activities.

So, if property is utilized for an underage drinking party without the owner’s knowledge the owner cannot be held liable. 

Q:  Does the Social Host Ordinance apply to events on Public Property?
A:  The ordinance states that a premises is any home, yard, farm, field, land, apartment, condominium, hotel or motel room, or other dwelling unit, or a hall or meeting room, park or any other place of assembly, public or private, whether occupied on a temporary or permanent basis, whether occupied as a dwelling or specifically for a party or other social function, and whether owned, leased, rented, or used with or without permission or compensation.

So if an event is held on public property where underage persons are consuming alcohol and the host knowingly allows the consumption to go on they can be held liable. 

A social host has an affirmative defense if the social host took reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages and/or controlled substances, and/or prescription drugs such as contacting law enforcement and allowing officers onto the premises for the purpose of stopping these illegal activities.

Q:  Does the Social Host Ordinance give authorities permission to enter private property without permission?
A:  This ordinance does not allow authorities to come on private property without permission.


For more information please contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or info@vbsafecoalition.com.  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Back to School Activities: It’s 3pm on a school day. Do you know where your children are?

As summer vacations end and students start a new school year, here are a few reasons you should encourage them to get involved with after-school activities:
·         Children & teens are more likely to be the victims of crime during the after-school hours than at any other time
·         Children & teens are more likely to participate in violent crimes during the after-school hours than at any other time
·         Children & teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol or drug use or sexual activity during the after-school hours than at any other time
Courtesy National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center

Our young children often attend after school daycare or programs provided by their elementary schools, but by the time children reach middle school they are often left on their own after school.  It seems sensible enough. They are old enough to get their own snacks and open their books to complete their homework. They know who to call if they have an emergency. However, adolescents benefit from after-school activities and supervision, too.

Youth who spend only a couple of hours per week in extracurricular after-school activities are significantly less likely to drop out of school; become teen parents; or use tobacco, alcohol or drugs. Spending 5-19 hours per week in after-school activities reduced the risk even further.

It is important that these activities are not just time wasters, but are programs that help youth develop skills and values and provide them with experiences that mean something to them.

It doesn't take a lot. Our schools and community offer a variety of after-school clubs, sports and activities. Encourage your children to find something that interests them and participate regularly.  If your student is in Grades 7-12 please have them check into the Warriors Ignite group that meets at the VBCSD Middle/High School.  This is a group sponsored by the VB County SAFE Coalition and works on leadership skills with the youth involved to address health, wellness, and substance abuse prevention in Van Buren County. 


For information on keeping your kids active and the activities available in Van Buren County you can contact the SAFE Coalition by email at info@vbsafecoalition.com or by phone at 319-293-6412.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Underage Alcohol Use – Not a Rite of Passage

Many people dismiss underage drinking as a normal “rite of passage” in adolescents.  However, it is important to remember that alcohol is one of the most common contributors to injury, death, and criminal behavior among youth (Hingson and Kenkel, 2004). Underage alcohol use can have immediate and potentially tragic consequences as well as long-range harmful consequences, such as increased risk for chronic alcohol addiction (Grant and Dawson, 1997). Enforcement activities to limit youth access to alcohol are critical to reducing underage drinking and its often tragic consequences.

Who is a Social Host?  A social host is someone who knowingly allows an underage person to consume alcohol illegally on the host’s property. 

What is Social Host Liability?  Social Host Liability is the legal term for the criminal responsibility of a person who allows such illegal activity.

What would this ordinance/law aim to do?
·         The Social Host Ordinance /Law is aimed at those who allow persons under legal age to consume alcoholic beverages in or on property they own or control.
·         This ordinance/law would address enforcement and prosecution problems where persons knowingly permit or allow underage drinkers to have a party on their property, even when the owner didn’t supply the alcohol, and persons, including parents, who knowingly permit or allow their children’s friends to consume alcohol at their home, even where the parents didn’t supply the alcohol. 
·         The ordinance/law only applies to those who know the underage drinking is going on and do not stop it, or who gave permission for it to occur in the first place.  It would not apply to persons who did not know the underage drinking was occurring on their property.  For example, if the parents were away, and their child had a party at their home and the parents were unaware of it, those parents would not be charged.

Why is This Important?
·         We want our youth to grow up to be strong, healthy and drug-free.
·         Even when the property owner did not supply the alcohol, it is still illegal for underage youth to consume alcohol. Adults, including parents, who knowingly permit youth to consume alcohol at their home, are sending the wrong message to our youth.
·         Currently, only the person who actually physically sells or gives the alcohol to the person under legal age can be prosecuted.
·         Underage drinkers may obtain the alcohol from one person, and then go somewhere else to drink it.  Common examples are parties that take place in rural areas, or at the home of one of the underage drinkers.  Adults have told police they knew about the party and it was okay with them, “because the kids weren’t driving and I knew where they were.”  This is still condoning illegal behavior.  Currently, there is no charge that applies to these situations.

Neighboring Jefferson County passed a similar ordinance on September 20, 2013. The SAFE Coalition consulted with Jefferson County's Assistant County Attorney Pat McAvan in regard to their ordinance.  McAvan shared, “Law Enforcement and Prosecutors hope that they never have to charge a violation of this ordinance in Jefferson County.  The primary goal is to educate people and change the community’s attitude about underage drinking and substance abuse while providing a mechanism to redirect poor decisions.  This ordinance is the tool that will do both.” 

He also shared the following:
·         Since the ordinance was enacted in Jefferson County and the City of Fairfield they have each only had one investigation.   In both cases the offending party moved out of the area before they could be prosecuted. 
·         The successes are hard to measure but they are there.  The community is more aware of this issue and their responsibility if they are a social host.  In addition, there has been a slight increase in communication with law enforcement when something does happen or is planned in the County.  People would rather speak up ahead of time than face charges after the fact. 

For more information about the proposed Local Social Host Ordinance please contact the Van Buren County SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or info@vbsafecoalition.com.