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Dublin strengthens its social host law to reduce and prevent underage drinking
The City of Dublin has strengthened its social host law as part of its ongoing effort to reduce and prevent underage drinking in the community.
Dublin City Council unanimously approved Ord. 20-09 on May 4, 2009 which amends the alcoholic beverages section of the Dublin Codified Ordinances. The legislation will take effect on June 3, 2009.
Under the existing code, an adult can not be charged unless he/she "knowingly" allows any underage person to remain in or on a place while possessing or consuming an alcoholic beverage. According to Dublin's Law Director, Stephen J. Smith, it has been virtually impossible to prove a violation of this section when the adult asserts an ignorance defense.
Under the amended code, an adult can be charged if he/she acts "negligently" in allowing any underage person to remain in or on a place while possessing or consuming an alcoholic beverage which is an easier violation to prove. The amendment also allows for the defense of the adult who has taken reasonable steps to prevent underage drinking.
Council worked with Dublin A.C.T. Coalition to make this amendment to the City's code. The coalition convened in 2008 based on a nationwide call from the U.S. Surgeon General urging communities to work together to reduce and prevent underage drinking.
Social Host Law Frequently Asked Questions
What does the amended social host law say?
Dublin Police may charge and the City may prosecute people who “negligently” allow
the possession or consumption of alcohol by underage people on their premises. Under
the Dublin Code, a person acts “negligently” if because of a “substantial lapse from due
care” a person “fails to perceive or avoid a risk that his conduct may cause a certain
result or may be of a certain nature.”
How does the amended law differ from the old law?
Previously, only people who “knowingly” allowed the possession of consumption of
alcohol by underage people on their premises were in violation of the law. The
amendment also protects people who do take reasonable steps to prevent underage
possession or consumption of alcohol on their premises if it happens.
Why did Dublin City Council amend the law?
Several community groups came to the City and asked how we could help their efforts
to reduce underage drinking in the community. According to the City’s Law Director, it
was “virtually impossible” to prosecute adults under the old law because they could
claim they were ignorant of underage consumption or possession. Changing the burden
of proof from “knowingly” to “negligently” makes it easier for police and prosecutors
to enforce this section of the Dublin Codified Ordinances.
What’s an example of a “negligence” infraction of the amended law?
Suppose a person is upstairs in the bedroom while underage possession or consumption
of alcohol is taking place downstairs. If Dublin Police are called to investigate, that
adult can be charged with violating the law even if they claim they did not know
criminal activity was taking place. This would be an example of negligence.
What’s an example of the “reasonable measures” protection in the amended
If a person takes steps to secure alcoholic beverages on the premises or takes other
means to restrict access by underage people to alcohol, these are examples of
How does this affect parents who allow their own underage children to consume
This does not change current Ohio law nor does it impact what a parent or legal
guardian may do with their own child in Dublin. Please see the Ohio Revised Code for
What are the punishments for violating this law?
Any violation would generally be a misdemeanor of the first degree. If found guilty of
this offense, he/she can be fined up to $1,000 and, in addition, be sentenced to up to six
months in prison.
Police Reminder: Don’t be a “Social Host” March 1, 2011 Prevent Underage Drinking Comments
The Dublin Division of Police wants to ensure the safety of all our residents and continue to educate our community on the City of Dublin’s unique “social host” law governing the hosting of guests who possess or drink alcoholic beverages.
Under Dublin’s law police may charge and the City may prosecute people who “negligently” allow the possession or consumption of alcohol by underage people on their premises. In this law, “negligence” is defined as follows: “A person acts negligently when, because of a substantial lapse from due care, he (or she) fails to perceive or avoid a risk that his (or her) conduct may cause a certain result…” Dublin’s social host law applies to parents, guardians, siblings, children, or any other person in charge of a premises.
What does this law mean? Here are a couple of practical examples:
- A high school senior is hosting a party at his or her home. The parents are home, but the party is held in a downstairs rec room. During the course of the party some of the guests (under 21 years of age) bring beer, but the parents don’t go downstairs to check what’s going on.
- A college student hosts a party with alcoholic beverages at home while his or her parents are out of town. Underage drinking occurs at the party. During the party a neighbor contacts the parents to tell them what’s going on. The parents choose not to follow up on the allegations and the party continues without interference.
In these examples, even though the parents did not furnish the alcohol or serve anyone, they could be in violation of Dublin’s social host law. The students hosting the parties could also be charged under the same law.
There are a number of reasonable measures that parents, guardians, and other property owners can take to prevent underage drinking in their homes. The Dublin Police recommend taking proactive steps to secure alcoholic beverages on the premises or take other means to restrict access by underage people to alcohol. Such steps include:
- locking alcoholic beverages away so underage persons cannot gain access
- asking a friend or neighbor to check on the residence when parents are away;
- requesting extra police patrols for the residence while parents are gone;
- removing alcoholic beverages from the home when parents are away.
We ask that parents with children under 21 years of age help us keep the season safe by taking particular care to ensure that no one under 21 possesses or is served alcoholic beverages in your homes.
Remember: Call 9-1-1 immediately to stop a crime, report a fire or save a life. To report a crime that has already occurred, suspicious activity or any other non-emergency situation, please contact the Dublin Police at 614.889.1112. You can choose to remain anonymous.”
- Lt. Heinz von Eckartsberg