Wright County to Consider Social Host Ordinance

Most young Minnesotans know that the law generally prohibits people under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. But cities and counties across the state have considered, or passed, social host ordinances that apply in the scattered cities or counties across the state. The local laws generally allow authorities to cite people who knowingly allow underage drinking at a party.

Many of the social host ordinances have vague language, but may include language that says a person who allows the party may avoid a citation by doing something to stop or prevent the party, or the unlawful drinking.

The Wright County Attorney reportedly is proposing that the Board of Commissioners in that county pass a social host ordinance. The proposal would make it illegal for someone to have a gathering of three or more people where the host of the party has reason to believe underage drinking may occur.

One of the features of the Wright County proposal is that a “host” does not actually have to be present at the party to be held criminally responsible, according to the county attorney. Many social host ordinances operate with similar language in Minnesota.

The idea generally means that a parent who is not home, but knows of a gathering and allows the party to go forward with reason to know underage individuals may consume alcohol, can be cited for the misdemeanor violation. Last year, this blog discussed a social host ordinance in Woodbury.

Generally, local government bodies seek to enact such laws with the idea to control underage drinking. The ordinances seek to expand the scope of who may be charged when local law enforcement busts a party involving allegations of unlawful underage consumption.

The legal age for drinking in Minnesota is 21 years old. The Wright County Attorney says that in the 18 to 20-year-old age group, authorities cannot charge a so-called host (who is present or not at the party) for a number of state crimes, such as contributing for the delinquency of a minor, or providing alcohol to a minor.

The attorney further wishes to charge so-called hosts, meaning someone who allows the party to occur, with a misdemeanor in those cases where the “host” does not provide alcohol and in those cases where an alleged underage drinker is an adult, but under the age of 21.

It appears the proposal is set for discussion by the board August 28, 2012

Source: St Michael Patch, “Opinion: Attorney Tom Kelly Rolls Out Social Host Ordinance in Wright County,” Tom Kelly, Aug. 17, 2012

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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