Social Host ordinances and underage drinking during graduation season

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:07 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - With graduation season upon us, a warning from local law enforcement about keeping you and your kids safe.

The Fergus Falls Police Department is reminding people of the Social Host Ordinance in their city. There are ordinances in 147 cities and 37 counties across Minnesota, some of which extend to marijuana.

So what do the rules mean and how it could affect you and your neighbors?

A social host ordinance makes it illegal for people to provide a place for underage drinking to happen. The host is responsible regardless of who provided the alcohol. The idea is to reduce access to alcohol for those under the age of 21, since officials say underage drinking often takes place at parents’ homes, at house parties, and rural areas like fields, bon fires or lakes.

Although it may seem safer for underage kids to have a drink at home, officials say the consequenses and risks are very real. Alcohol poisoning and addiction to alcohol are a concern, as well as risky sexual behavior and fighting, property damage, and injuries from accidents or poor judgement.

Officials in North Dakota say since it is difficult to prove someone knowingly allowed underage drinking, social host ordinances are often written to target adults who aren’t using precautions to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors, or if repeat offences are creating a public safety issue.

The rules are something to keep in mind as we head into the season of graduations and trips to the lake. An Social Host ordinance violation in Minnesota is a misdemeanor offense with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Valley News Live asked similar questions of Arthur Barn about mounting concerns at their popular barn dance. Since January, 86 minors have been given out at or near the rural party barn. They have private security and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office says they are working on solutions to increase ID checks and reduce underage drinking.