You may reason that, since your children have drunk alcohol with friends, they would be a lot safer if they did their drinking at home. But cities have created social host ordinances prohibiting adults from providing alcohol to minors, even in their own home.
Jeff Lake, father of 18-year-old Olivia Lake, was arrested recently for throwing a Playboy-themed party in Poway, Calif. to celebrate Olivia’s 18th birthday. There were reportedly “up to 200 teens” in attendance when the police arrived at the party. Many of the teens were allegedly drinking and, in keeping with the Playboy Mansion theme, scantily clad.1
Lake was charged with violating a Poway social host ordinance. If he is convicted, he could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.2
Many California municipalities have enacted social host ordinances to discourage underage drinking. Studies have found that although law enforcement has cracked down on liquor sales to minors, many underage drinkers obtain liquor at home or at a friend’s house.
California Social Host Ordinances
Social host ordinances in California generally hold the adult in charge of the premises responsible if underage persons are allowed to drink on the premises and the adult:
- Knows or should have known the drinking is taking place, and
- Fails to take reasonable action to stop it
Social host ordinances do not generally allow the police to enter your property without a search warrant. However, if police discover that underage drinking is taking place on your property, they can give you a citation or arrest you.
Penalties vary based on each city’s ordinance. If you are cited for a first offense infraction in Laguna Beach, you will have to attend a parent education class. In Poway, where Jeff Lake was arrested, you could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.