The social host ordinance will go into effect this Saturday, Dec. 12, in St. Paul and it may change weekend plans for some students in the St. Thomas area.
John Hershey, St. Thomas’ neighborhood liaison, explained that the social host ordinance is intended to hold people responsible for hosting events where underage people are drinking, even if they don’t provide the alcohol.
“It’s to help close the responsibility loophole in hosting parties, and basically to hold people responsible who create the atmosphere for underage drinking and/or disruptive events,” Hershey said.
Under the new ordinance, those who are deemed a “social host” in a situation where there are underage drinkers could get a maximum penalty of $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. A violation of this ordinance is considered a misdemeanor.
Under the old rules, for those caught hosting a party with underage people present, the penalty would cost time and money, but it wouldn’t go on their record, Hershey said. Now, in addition to jail time and a fine, the result is a misdemeanor that won’t go away.
This ordinance doesn’t just affect legal-age drinkers either. If an underage person hosts a party, he or she can be held responsible with the same penalties.
According to a St. Paul informational brochure about the ordinance, if a housemate or roommate hosts a party while another one is away, the person who is absent may still be held criminally liable, depending on the knowledge of the event and what actions he or she took to prevent it.
Junior Jaimie Carpenter thinks this part of the ordinance is unfair.
“You can say, ‘I really don’t think this is a good idea,’ as much as you want to, but you can’t make somebody not do something if you’re not there,” Carpenter said.
Ordinance’s possible influence on St. Thomas’ parties
Hershey doesn’t think this ordinance will affect the number of parties in the area, but some students see the penalties as threatening enough to negatively affect the number of parties.
Carpenter, who recently turned 21, is the only legal-age person in her house.
“We recently have talked about not having people over because we don’t want to get in trouble,” she said. “I think it will cut down on [parties] a lot because of 90 days in jail and the fine. It’s a pretty heavy penalty; plus [it’s] on your record forever.”
Junior Katie Erlandson raised the concern about having friends of different ages.
“I think it really sucks a lot right now because I have half 21-year-old friends and half 20-year-old friends,” Erlandson said. “So am I just not supposed to hang out with my 21-year-old friends who want to drink? Do I have to give up my friends?”
Junior Erin Kamm said she thinks 20-year-olds are old enough to recognize the consequences of their choices.
“I’m not going to go to a party and expect the person who’s 21 at that party to [check my ID],” she said. “If I’m choosing to drink and I’m choosing to break the law, that should be my problem, not the 21-year-old’s.”
According to an e-mail sent from the Commuter Center in November, “St. Paul Police Department reserves the right to view Facebook profiles for information regarding your knowledge of the planning of the party that violated the ordinance.”
The e-mail also said the ordinance includes houses, apartments, hotel rooms, yards and anywhere else at least three or more people are present.
Kamm said 21-year-olds have more pressure now than when they were underage.
“I think some people are just going to blow this off,” Kamm said. “[If] you’re going to drink and you’re underage, you already know that you might get a minor [consumption violation]. But I think for those people who are 21, this is going to put this extra pressure because now they’re legal to drink and it’s almost a relief, ‘I can’t get into trouble anymore.’ But now they can get in even more trouble.”
The St. Paul Police Department offers some tips on being a responsible host:
· Check IDs.
· Control access to alcohol.
· Control the quantity of alcohol.
· Keep an eye on underage people.
· Be courteous to your neighbors and keep the party noise down.
· Don’t let uninvited people in, especially ones who arrive at the door with alcohol or are already drunk.
· Call the police for help with uninvited guests
Stephani Bloomquist can be reached at email@example.com