'Social hosting' law has merit
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 10:00 AM
Some parents rationalize that if their kids are going to drink alcohol, they'd prefer they do it at home rather than in an unsupervised setting.
That thinking could have severe consequences if the Indiana General Assembly pursues a proposed "social host" liability law - as it should.
Permissive parents who allow underage drinking in their homes could face arrest and prosecution under the proposed law.
Adults who allow minors to drink on property they own, rent or control would face jail time and fines in a bill filed by state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon.
At least 28 states have "social hosting" laws that go beyond holding parents responsible for just providing alcohol to teens.
The law would penalize adults for condoning teen drinking, even if those adults didn't buy or supply the alcohol.
The proposed law has merit, but it would be difficult to enforce. Certainly it won't stop underage drinking, but it would give law enforcement a tool to prosecute parents and other adults who make it easy for teenagers to drink illegally.
Most parents already are smart enough to not condone underage drinking - whether or not it is in their home. But we know that isn't always the case.
Parents, we hope, would be more likely to put the kibosh on drinking if they have a stake in the game.
The proposed penalties are stiff. The bill makes it a Class B misdemeanor - carrying up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine - to "recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally" provide the use of property for the purpose of allowing a minor to consume alcohol. A repeat offense jumps to a Class A misdemeanor, with up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The charge could be upgraded to a felony, with up to 2-1/2 years in prison, if a minor's drinking leads to serious injury or death.
The penalty may be a deterrent, but the real reason to forbid our underage kids from drinking is that it's damaging to their health.