By Don Heinzman
ECM Editorial Writer
Police and sheriff’s deputies in many area communities have a new tool to prevent teenagers from drinking in their homes. Parents have reasons to worry about their under-age children drinking during “the 100 deadliest days for teens.”
Those 100 deadliest days are from prom time to Labor Day, according to Wright County Judge Steve Halsey.
Parents also should be aware of recently enacted social host ordinances now in effect in 58 cities and 12 counties. This law makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to host an event where under-age drinking takes place.
After proms and around graduation, students go to house parties. Parents who allow house parties, thinking it’s better to have kids drink at home than being somewhere else drinking and driving, better be aware of this law.
Those parents or people under age who host parties where they know alcohol is served to under-age persons may think they’ll just get a slap on the wrist.
In Isanti County, parents got a wake-up call when a woman who hosted a party thought it was safer to have the kids drink at home.
Citing the law, Judge James Dehn didn’t buy her explanation and sentenced her to 90 days in jail, a fine of $385 plus a year’s supervised probation. In addition, he prohibited her from possessing or using alcohol or any other controlled substance, entering any bars, or liquor stores and subject to random and drug testing during her probation.
He commented, “You may believe that if they are consuming at your house they will not leave, but we know people do leave and go out and commit DUI’s, have accidents and take lives.”
The law provides that the person hosting the event or gathering must knowingly realize that underage drinking is taking place at the event or gathering. It also provides that the person hosting the event or gathering is criminally responsible when persons under 21 possess or consume alcohol, regardless of whether the person hosting the event supplied the alcohol.
Some will argue that such a penalty is too severe and the law is unnecessary. Police officers, however, say that prior to having this ordinance it was nearly impossible to arrest the host, because it was tough to prove they provided the liquor.
The law does allow a parent to have their own child drink when they are present.
Judge Halsey argues that around prom through Labor Day, young people do more drinking and driving and says statistics show that every seven days in Minnesota, a teen driver dies in an auto wreck.
While accounting for 8 percent of licensed drivers, teens have 14 percent of the collisions in the state.
In 2009, 35 Minnesota teens died in crashes. In addition 71 percent of teen driving deaths involve a teen driver.
Judge Halsey wisely suggests that parents should talk to their children and tell them about the legal consequences of drinking and driving during these “100 deadliest days for teens.” Moreover, they themselves, had better be sure they do not host a drinking party knowing under-age people will be consuming alcohol. The law is not on their side.
Don Heinzman, former editor of the Star News in Elk River, is an editorial writer for ECM Publishers. His blog is posted on HometownSource.com.