Roseville set to vote on fines for people who host underage drinking parties

Roseville is poised to join more than 150 cities across the country that can fine people when underage visitors to their homes drink alcohol.

The Roseville City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to enact a “social host ordinance” under which it would issue $500 fines for a first offense, $750 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third. Police could fine a host if one or more minors possesses or consumes alcohol or drugs on their premises.

A survey by the Roseville Joint Union High School District found that 79 percent of 11th graders said it was easy to acquire alcohol and 34 percent said they had been to an event where parents allowed underage youth to drink alcohol.

A study by Mallie J. Paschall, a scientist with the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, concluded that local social host laws in California may be associated with less frequent underage drinking in private settings. Paschall cited three factors of a strong ordinance: specifically targeting underage drinking, a civil penalty (such as a hefty fine) that is swiftly administered; and property owners being held responsible, even if they claim they didn’t know about the underage drinking.

While California law already bars adults from providing minors with alcohol or drugs, the social host ordinances are able to target events where guests are encouraged to bring their own bottle (or bong). Adult hosts or parents of juvenile hosts, under the law, could be fined for minors’ possession of drugs or alcohol on their premises regardless or whether the hosts provided it.

Exceptions in the Roseville law would account for hosts who call the police directly because there’s a medical emergency or an event gets out of their control, parents who serve alcohol to their own children at family or religious gatherings, and for parents who provide marijuana to their children under the state’s medical marijuana laws.

The neighboring city of Rocklin was the first in Placer County to enact a social host ordinance. They did so with opposition from only one resident, who at a City Council meeting said the law smacks of the prohibition era.

Police in Rocklin can issue fines of $1,000 to adults who host underage drinking or drug parties. But Sgt. Trent Jewell, who authored Rocklin’s ordinance, said that to date, they haven’t issued a single citation and that that’s a good thing.

“From the very beginning, our goal has been education,” he said. “In Ventura County, where they’ve been doing these, citations have been going down across the board. That’s education.”

Jewell credited multiple radio spots and the active Facebook notifications of Placer County Youth Commission for promoting the law.

Alan Baker, committee chair for the Coalition for Placer Youth, which helped to initiate the move to bring the social host ordinances to Placer County, agreed that a robust advertising and marketing campaign would be necessary for the success of the law in Roseville.

He said in addition to the cost of such a campaign, the city would need to ensure the Police Department has the resources to implement the law.

The Roseville City Council will decide on the ordinance at their regular meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting is open to the public for comment and will be held at the City Council chambers at 311 Vernon St.

For questions, residents can contact the Roseville Police Department’s Sgt. Jason Bosworth at 916-774-5052 and also weigh in at citycouncil@roseville.ca.us.