H.B. moves toward fine for underage-drinking hosts

20 Feb
orange county bail bonds

Parents in Huntington Beach could face a fine if caught serving alcohol to minors. The city is believed to be the third in Orange County to adopt a social hosting ordinance. SETH PERLMAN, AP

HUNTINGTON BEACH Parents can now be held responsible if they are caught serving alcohol to minors at parties.

This new rule on the city’s books passed 5-2 at the City Council meeting on Tuesday with council members Matthew Harper and Jill Hardy dissenting. The new rule will apply a $250 fine for violators.

Mission Viejo was the first city to adopt this rule in 2008 and Laguna Beach jumped on board in December.

“This is one of those that is really easy to vote in favor of and it looks real good,” Hardy said. “To stand up and oppose it is very brave, I think. I’m going to get accused of not listening to the parents … or not thinking of the children… but it’s just too easy for me to come up with how it goes bad.”

Councilman Joe Carchio, who brought the item to the council, said teens and parents are “begging for this”.

“Alcohol is the leading (substance) that creates problems that lead to drugs and so forth,” he said. “These people came from the PTA and expressed their concern and wanted this because they need to have it in place because this is where the kids start.”

The social hosting ordinance will be added to the city’s “loud parties” ordinance, which allows Huntington Beach to collect a fee for having the police respond to gatherings that are receiving noise complaints.

The city’s law will combine the state “contributing to delinquency” law and civil liability for “social hosting” into one law that will serve as a tool for the police department to deter under age drinking.

Police can either charge a flat $250 fee for the violation or they can apply an itemized fee that could include things such as salaries of the officers when responding to parties, the cost of equipment and the cost of any medical treatment if a police officer is injured, the ordinance says.

“This speaks in plain language about the nature of the problem and it gives the police officer tools that we don’t have now,” said Police Chief Kenneth Small said. “This adds a civil citation process … which is a much easier and simpler way for the police department to address it.”

Hardy said she was concerned that parents could be wrongfully accused of hosting a party.

As a teacher, she said she hears how students go out of their way to hide things from their parents. She gave the example of teens watching movies in a home while the parents are upstairs and one teen sneaking in alcohol without the adults knowing.

“What if one kid gets sick and then they call their parents … and that parent flips out and calls the police?” Hardy said. “The potential for a parent being accused of hosting when they aren’t just seems too strong here.”

The law will have some exemptions, including allowing alcohol for religious activities or skipping a citation if it is determine the host of the party took “reasonable steps to prevent underage drinking,” the law says.

The ordinance will come back for a second reading at a future meeting before going into effect.



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