The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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January 1, 2013

County looks at creating ‘social host’ ordinance

CLINTON — A proposed countywide ordinance will try to prevent the underage consumption of alcohol during social gatherings and events.

This proposed ordinance would make it unlawful for any social host to knowingly permit or allow underage individuals to possess or consume alcoholic beverages on the premises of his or her property, whether or not the social host is present. Anyone convicted under the ordinance would be guilty of a simple misdemeanor. The person would be subject to a fine between $65 and $650 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days.

The ordinance was drafted by the Clinton County Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant Collaborative Group, with assistance from Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf. Candace Seitz, with the Area Substance Abuse Council and current coordinator of the collaborative group, attended the Clinton County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday to discuss the proposed ordinance. The group is focused on underage drinking and adult binge drinking.

“It’s harmful to those persons, themselves. It’s a threat to public welfare, health and safety,” Seitz said about social gatherings where minors consume alcoholic beverages.

According to the ordinance, a “social host” is defined as any “person, partnership, corporation or association of one or more individuals who aids, entertains, organizes, supervises, controls or permits an event, gathering or party.”

This includes a person who rents, owns or leases the premises where an event is held, a person in charge of the premises or a person who organizes the event.

“Premises” includes a variety of locations, including a home, yard, farm, field, land, hotel or motel, apartment, condominium, other dwelling unit, hall or meeting room or place of assembly. According to the ordinance, this would not include property that is licensed to serve or sell alcoholic beverages.

“We feel there’s a need for this,” Wolf said about the ordinance. “It’s not going to be something that’s going to be used terribly often, but I can see it used as more as a prevention-type tool.”

The ordinance provides a social host an affirmative defense if the host took reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of alcohol by underage individuals. This host also has this defense if he notified law enforcement and allowed law enforcement to enter the premises to stop the illegal activities.

“What I see this as helping us is working with persons who have a problem where, perhaps teenage parties may take place, out in the county especially,” Wolf said. “And this gives us a way to allow the Sheriff’s Office to continue to work with the person that owns those properties that we may learn of that kids are using as a teenage party place.”

This ordinance will not punish parents who are out of town and are unaware their children are having a party. The ordinance also makes the exception of actions legally protected by religious observances and actions permitted under Section 123.47(2) of Iowa Code. This includes cases where liquor, wine or beer is given in a private home with the knowledge, presence and consent of a parent or guardian or when it is administered by either a physician or dentist for medicinal purposes.

The Board of Supervisors set a first reading of the ordinance Jan. 21. Wolf said this ordinance is a way to show that underage drinking is not acceptable.

“This isn’t a rite of passage. This isn’t something that we’re condoning or turning a blind eye to,” Wolf said.

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