Montfort, Healy, McGuire & Salley LLP



June 2015 E-Newsletter

Garden City Proposed Social Host Law Expands Liability

With prom season in full swing and the warm weather approaching, this is a time of year that is prime for underage drinking parties. Unfortunately, this season of festivities can turn tragic when teenagers imbibe. A new local law recently proposed by Police Commissioner Kenneth Jackson is hoped to be a deterrent to combat underage alcohol consumption and the problems associated with it in Garden City.

The proposed law expands liability from those 18 and over to include individuals 16 and over. Therefore, in addition to holding parents liable, the new law would also hold teenage hosts liable. This is particularly geared at young party hosts whose parents may be out of town when their children decide to throw a party. Under New York State law, disobeying these proposed social host laws would be a violation, and not considered a crime that would appear on one’s record. In Garden City, the proposed fine for a first time violation would be $1,000-$1,500; a second offense would be $1,500-$2,750; and a third time offense could result in fines up to $3,500 or jail time up to 15 days.

In 2006, The City of Long Beach was the first municipality to pass a Social Host Ordinance in New York. Since then, it has become the prototype for many other municipalities wishing to enact a deterrent for underage drinking. In May 2014, a law was enacted in Long Beach that would raise the maximum fine from $250 to $1,000. The increase in fines was aimed to provoke parental involvement, as the higher fine would be much more difficult for minors to pay on their own without parental knowledge of the violation.

Nationwide, 50% of teenagers have reported drinking at parties where adults are present and aware of underage consumption. Social host laws crack down on not only providing, but merely allowing consumption by minors. New York’s Dram Shop Act enacted in 1983 imposes liability only for the commercial sale of alcohol to minors or adults who are already intoxicated. Therefore, New York State additionally enacted Section 11-100 of the General Obligations Law, imposing liability on those who provide or assist in providing alcohol to minors. The local ordinances expand even further the statewide laws already in place. Such local ordinances are meant to send a message in the communities that underage drinking is a public health issue, and a threat to the welfare and safety of minors.

Click here to read Section 11-100 of the General Obligations Law.

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