Social Host Laws Target Underage Drinking in Suburban St. Louis

Spring is a busy and exciting time for many high school students. Between prom and graduation, there is much to celebrate. As a result, teenagers may make the decision to consume alcohol at a party, which can produce a number of unintended consequences. As such, a number of communities in St. Louis County have ramped up efforts to create and enforce social host laws.

Just last year, the city of Chesterfield, Missouri, passed a social hosting ordinance that would hold adult homeowners responsible for alcohol consumption on their property. A conviction under this law can result in a $1,000 fine and a 90-day jail term for adults, and they don’t even need to be home during a party.

Although the law hasn’t been invoked too often, it creates a number of concerns for teens and parents alike. The most recent time Chesterfield authorities used this law was in relation gathering that included only three underage students.

Not only will the students in this particular case face the possibility of charges, but they could face challenges when trying to meet educational and professional goals in the future. Beyond that, one set of parents is facing charges and stigma within their community.

Local police have already indicated that they will use a “zero tolerance” approach to possible social-host cases. Understanding this, it will be important for parents and students to prepare for what might happen. Underage students should understand that even one drop of alcohol before getting behind the wheel could lead to driving while intoxicated charges. Additionally, a party that inadvertently gets out of control can create serious problems for property owners.

What begins as a night of joy and celebration can take a very serious turn for the worst, so it never hurts to take consider thoughtful precautions and reactions when dealing with issues related to underage consumption.

Source: STLToday.com, “Use of social hosting law stepped up during prom, Homecoming, graduation season,” April 23, 2013

//]]>