WHAT THE ORANGE COUNTY SOCIAL HOST LAW MEANS FOR YOU
It is holiday time. Food and drink and parties. College kids home from school. So now is the time to think about what is your responsibility for those around you, who are under 21, in your home, drinking alcoholic beverages.
If you are over 18 years of age, this article will apply to you. In 2016, the Orange County Legislature enacted the Social Host Law, which seeks to deter the drinking of alcoholic beverages by minors by holding those 18 years of age or older responsible when they permit, on premises, the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors. A minor is defined in the statute as any person under the age of 21. Yes, an 18 year old can be responsible for what someone 18, 19 or 20 years of age will do. Unusual perhaps, but that is how the law is written.
The law makes it unlawful for any person 18 years of age or older to knowingly allow the drinking of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by a minor, or to fail to take reasonable corrective action upon learning of the consumption of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by any minor on the premises. This applies to any home, apartment, condominium, co-operative unit or other dwelling unit of any kind and public and private property, including yards and open areas adjacent thereto Reasonable corrective action includes but is not limited to: (1) making a prompt demand that the minor either give up the alcohol and stop drinking, or (2) if the minor does not comply with such a request, either quickly report such underage drinking to a local enforcement agency or to any other person having a greater degree of authority over the conduct of such minor. Incidentally, this section does not apply to the consumption of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by a minor whose parents or guardian is present and has expressly permitted such consumption or to the use and consumption of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by a minor for religious purposes.
The intent of the legislature was supported by a finding that underage drinking is a significant problem that has generated widespread concern in Orange County, and a problem that New York State has not regulated. The legislature noted that the underage consumption of alcohol, whether at a party or a smaller gathering, poses an immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of Orange County. This could lead to alcohol abuse, physical altercations, vandalism, excess noise and the commission of violent crimes.
The penalties for violation of this law are significant. A first time violation shall constitute a violation and be punishable by a fine of $500.00. In addition, the Court shall also order the completion of an alcohol awareness program and/or an appropriate amount of community service up to 30 hours.
A second offense by a person previously found guilty of violating this law shall constitute an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by either a fine of $1,000.00 and/or a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year.
You might ask yourself if you host a party where alcohol is served, how can you avoid breaking the Orange County Social Host Law? The answer, according to information provided by the County, is simple: Do not allow minors to drink alcohol. As the host of the party, you must take reasonable steps to prevent consumption of alcohol by any minor (remember, this is up to age 21).
These steps can include:
- Control access. Keep alcohol away from minors at your party.
- Control quantity. Do not purchase so much alcohol that you lose track of it.
- Verify age. Adults have a responsibility to know how old everyone is at the party.
- Supervise. You must supervise the activities of minors in attendance.
In the event you or your adult child (18 years of age and older) are charged under this law, it is important to seek legal advice. Call if you must from the police station to ensure that your legal rights are protected.
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This is not intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation.
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