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January 22, 2013

Social Host Ordinance moves forward

CLINTON — Adults will likely think twice about hosting alcohol parties for teens as the Social Host Ordinance is pushed forward by Clinton County officials.

The Clinton County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved the first reading of the Social Host Ordinance that punishes those who knowingly host alcohol parties for minors.

The ordinance would make it unlawful for any host to knowingly allow underage individuals to possess or consume alcohol on the premises of his or her property, even if the host is not present. There is no state law currently that addresses hosts providing a place for minors to drink. The ordinance is similar to state law for hosting a drug house or “gatherings.”

“This is not likely to go for statewide legislation, based on my discussion with state representatives,” County Attorney Mike Wolf said.

Parents who are out of town and are unaware that their children are hosting a party are safe from the law as long as reasonable steps were taken to prevent the party. Law enforcement and officials will look for repeated acts on the same property.

“It’s one other tool for law enforcement to enlist cooperation,” Wolf said.

For the most part there hasn’t been much opposition to the new law, but there are still some concerned skeptics, according to Candace Seitz, with the Area Substance Abuse Council and coordinator of Clinton County Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant Collaborative Group.

“Adults have questioned if it is an attack on their rights, but it really isn’t,” Seitz said, who brought forth the new ordinance. “It is a preventative measure and we appreciate the support from the community.”

While the law is commonly attributed to adults or parents, the host component can fall on anyone, even a minor.

“If a juvenile hosts, we can charge them, if the parents didn’t know,” Clinton County Deputy Sgt. Steve Cundiff said. “Instead of the parent, the son or daughter could be charged.”

Even college students hosting parties in their dorm rooms could be nabbed by the new legislation. County officials hope this new measure will push the seriousness of the issue and help law enforcement keep things in line.

“This will give the sheriff’s office a tool to talk to landowners,” Wolf said. “I really do not like sitting through vehicular homicides of teens.”

While the ordinance is not likely to become a statewide law at this time, it has benefits at the county level.

“A lot of these things like supplying alcohol to minors, underage drinking and hosting tend to get lumped together,” Wolf said. “The county can use its own common sense and discretion to determine how to go about enforcing it.”

Anyone convicted under the ordinance would be guilty of a simple misdemeanor and would be subject to a jail sentence of as much as 30 days and a fine of between $65 and $650.

Other actions:

· Supervisors adopted the Peddlers, Solicitors and Transient Merchants Ordinance. The ordinance requires peddlers, solicitors and transient merchants to apply for a license by filling out a detailed application along with a fee of $5. Any person convicted in violation of this ordinance shall be guilty of a simple misdemeanor and is subject to a penalty with a minimum fine of $65 and a maximum fine of $625 and/or imprisonment in jail for a period not to exceed 30 days.

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