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Redwood Falls Gazette
  • Redwood County commissioners approve social host ordinance

  • From this point forward an adult who knowingly provides a venue where minors are allowed to drink alcohol is taking a huge risk....
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  • From this point forward an adult who knowingly provides a venue where minors are allowed to drink alcohol is taking a huge risk. As of this past Tuesday the county has a new tool that would allow law en-forcement and the county attorney to charge and prosecute those adults for what is an illegal act. A new social host ordinance approved by the county board on a 4-1 vote puts in place a law that can lead to misdemeanor charges against those who host events where minors are allowed to drink alcohol. “The ordinance in effect means parents or other adults who are found to have hosted a party or gathering where minors are allowed to drink can be charged with a crime,” said Steven Collins, Redwood County attorney, who, along with Randy Hanson, Redwood County sheriff, proposed the ordinance to the county board. “This is a very good thing for the county, because it can help curb underage drinking in Redwood County.” Prior to the adoption of the ordinance, the hands of those looking to prosecute someone who had provided such a venue were tied, and even though this is not a common occurrence in the county, Collins said just having the ordinance in place should send a message to adults that this kind of activity is not acceptable. Collins added the rule only applies to those who knowingly host such an event, adding those who own property where a party or gathering happens they don’t know about are not going to face charges. 
    So, if a property owner on the south side of the county who actually lives on the north side finds out a party was held on that southern piece of property unbeknownst to them they are not going to face charges if that party is busted. “This is not about someone who is legitimately gone from their house and while they are away someone holds a party in their house,” said Hanson. “This is about people who know something is going on and do nothing about it.” Hanson said this is one more tool for law enforcement which allows officers to do their job. Collins emphasized the fact that the focus of the ordinance is to send a message, adding the hope is people see or hear about it and that is going to help prevent them from making a bad decision. As a misdemeanor charge, Collins said those who are convicted can face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. The City of Redwood Falls enacted a social host ordinance a couple of years ago, and Collins said he has not heard that it has been used a lot – if at all, adding the hope is it never has to be used at the county level either. “If we never have to cite someone for this that’s great,” said Collins, adding, however, it has come up in the past. Collins added this ordinance is different than the contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge, adding in those cases there must be an actual eyewitness who sees an adult hand alcohol over to the minor. He said it is pretty tough to get a kids to turn in their parent or their friend’s parent. The state currently has a social host statute in place, but Collins said it is a civil statute. It allows for people to be sued in a case of this nature, but there are no punitive options as part of that statute. “We cite kids for underage drinking, but we know they are often not the only ones who are involved,” said Collins, adding the irresponsible actions of some adults must be addressed.

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