Group working on “social host” law

Local News

FariCARES is a non-profit organization tackling the problems tobacco, alcohol and drug use among youths in Faribault County.

Currently, its main focus has been looking for ways to reduce underage drinking.

Three members of the group — Ryan Murphey, Jennifer Crawford and Aron Welch —- think now may be the time for county officials to consider a “social host” ordinance.

“It’s definitely needed,” says Murphey. “It’s another layer of accountability and a deterrent to the person hosting a party.”

The following incidents seem to lend support for the argument that there is a need for a such a law:

* About a year ago, nearly 60 minors were ticketed for underage drinking at an outdoor party east of Minnesota Lake near the Waseca County line.

* According to a teen who has pleaded guilty in an assault that occurred in Winnebago last October, there was alcohol at the house party.

* On July 7, a 13-year-old girl is found lying in a yard unresponsive and intoxicated in the Bass Lake north shore area where an estimated 1,000 people gathered for a party. She was transported by Winnebago Ambulance to the emergency room at United Hospital in Blue Earth and later released.

Dale Hurley, who son was reportedly beaten unconscious by four football teammates, says people need to know it’s not alright to let minors drink at parties held on private property.

“My son could have died,” he says. “If we had such an ordinance, the party wouldn’t have been going on with the parents turning their heads and being reckless with the kids.”

Under a “social host” ordinance, it would be illegal to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who furnishes the alcohol. Hosts, residents or property owners may be held criminally responsible if a minor who consumed alcohol damages property or harms someone else.

“It gives law enforcement another tool and way to hold people responsible,” Murphey says. “It’s going to help prevent older friends or siblings from doing this.”

Murphey, a Wells police officer and also the resources officer at United South Central School District, says he, Crawford and Welch are studying ordinances that have been implemented in other cities and counties — like Austin, Albert Lea, Freeborn and Mower counties.

Crawford is employed as a social worker in the United South Central School District and Welch is the district’s alcohol, tobacco and other drugs planning and implementation coordinator.

The trio has been attending a five-day training conference in Kissimmee, Fla., this week hosted by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.

“By the end of this year we’ll hopefully have an ordinance, but I don’t know if it will be voted on,” Murphey says.

Violation of the ordinance is considered a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. In addition, a person may be held civilly liable, could possibly be charged with a more serious criminal offense and may face problems with their insurance company.

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