News Release


DATE: August 6, 2003

CONTACT STEVE SCHMIDT AT 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108



ALPINE - County leaders joined healthy community advocates to announce the implementation of a new County ordinance that holds adults accountable for providing alcohol to minors in private settings. Supervisor Dianne Jacob recently led the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in adopting the new law, which is expected to be a model for other communities, both locally and statewide.

"The consequences of underage drinking can be devastating to youth, families and the community as a whole," said Supervisor Jacob who noted that it was the gravity of underage drinking problems that led to the new law. "As responsible adults it is our obligation to do everything we can to protect our youth from underage drinking and this means holding the adults who contribute to the problem accountable," Jacob said.

From now on, adults who host underage drinking will be charged with a misdemeanor which carries a $1,000 fine, community service and up to six months in jail. They will also be required to reimburse law enforcement for the costs associated with responding to the party; and if one of the minors seriously injures themselves or someone else, the adult host will face a minimum of six months in jail.

Sheriff Kolender said the new "Social Host" law, as it is also known, has the potential to save lives, and he has committed his department to enforce the new law to the fullest extent. Underage drinking is currently the most common contributor to injury, death and criminal behavior among youth in San Diego County.

"Enforcing this law is a responsibility we plan to take very seriously," Kolender said.

Bonnie Helander, the Executive Director of MADD's San Diego Chapter said the punishment is strong but appropriate, since alcohol is the number one killer in this age group.

"Local social host laws are one step forward in acknowledging that underage drinking is just not a 'youth problem,' but a cultural problem for which we have a 'shared responsibility,'" Helander said. "Until youth are consistently receiving the message that underage drinking is not only illegal, but unacceptable, their health and safety will remain at risk."

In addition to the County, the Cities of El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, La Mesa, Oceanside, Poway, San Diego, and Santee have all passed or are considering similar ordinances. However the County ordinance has the strongest penalties, specifically stating that no part of the $1,000 fine shall be suspended. It also has provisions for third party injuries and addresses civil liability, something that the ordinances of other municipalities fail to do.