Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Social Host Law cuts out loopholes, holds adults accountable for underage drinking

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Buffalo: Social Host Law cuts out loopholes, holds adults accountable for underage drinking
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ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — As high school graduations and proms inch closer and closer, the likelihood of house parties, mixed with alcohol and minors increases.

A new law recently passed by the Erie County Legislature, would hold adults, hosting parties at their homes, accountable for any underage drinking.

"Adults have to realize that the law is the law, and the drinking age is 21,” said Capt. Greg Wickett with Hamburg Police. “Not only is it a moral issue, but it's a legal responsibility that you cannot allow this to happen, knowingly, at your residence."

Right now, it is illegal in New York State, to serve alcohol to minors, but the proposed Social Host Law, would close any gaps or loopholes.

If homeowners throughout Erie County know teens are drinking at their residence, regardless if they're home or not, they could face a fine, or a misdemeanor charge on the third offense.

"This applies to the parents, or the adult, or property owner knowingly allowing this to happen at their property," said Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon, I – Hamburg.

Dixon worked with the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse for about a year to pass the law. According to the council's executive director, Andrea Wanat, 20 percent of local high school students binge drink.

"Underage drinking has been a problem nationally, statewide and locally,” said Wanat. “We are above the statewide average, which is an issue."

The legislation still needs to be approved by the county executive, who can then decide whether to hold a public hearing.

Meantime, Dixon said she's hopeful the law will be authorized and go into effect soon.

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