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Roseville passes fines for hosts of underage drinkers

Kathryn Sobczak, a Placer County youth commissioner, appeals to the Roseville City Council to pass an ordinance allowing the city to fine homeowners who allow underage visitors to drink alcohol.
Kathryn Sobczak, a Placer County youth commissioner, appeals to the Roseville City Council to pass an ordinance allowing the city to fine homeowners who allow underage visitors to drink alcohol. mbaksh@sacbee.com

Adults who allow underage visitors to their homes to drink alcohol can be fined under an ordinance adopted by the Roseville City Council on Wednesday.

Council members voted 4-1 in favor of the so-called “social host” ordinance. The city joins about 150 jurisdictions across the country that have adopted such ordinances, including the neighboring city of Rocklin. Sacramento County and city adopted ordinances in 2010.

Roseville’s version allows police to issue $500 fines for a first offense, $750 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third. Police can fine a host if one or more minors possesses or consumes alcohol or drugs on their premises.

Members of the Roseville Police Department and the Placer County Youth Commission, which backed the ordinance, said it’s aimed at educating people.

“This isn’t about punishment,” said Placer County youth commissioner Caitlyn Jordan, 16. “It’s about changing social norms.”

From permanent brain damage to death from alcohol poisoning, the consequences of underage drinking are well-documented by agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But according to the California Healthy Kids Survey, less than half of ninth- to 11th-graders said their parents or guardians had spoken to them about the risks of underage drinking in the past year.

Concerned that the law would be counterproductive by discouraging reports of underage drinking, Councilwoman Pauline Roccucci cast the sole no vote.

“We have good state laws already, and I’m just afraid they may not call you,” Roccucci said to Roseville police Sgt. Jason Bosworth, who presented the case for the ordinance.

Bosworth said that those people would be unlikely to call anyway. On the contrary, he said he expects the ordinance will remove the stigma associated with the criminal code and foster much-needed education through partnership with local schools.

“It’s just one more tool in our tool belt to help protect our kids,” he said, adding that with the state law, police are required to prove that a specific individual provided the alcohol, whereas the new ordinance would allow them to say: “You’re the homeowner; you’re responsible.”

Councilwoman Bonnie Gore said she originally shared some of Roccucci’s concerns but decided to vote in favor after Bosworth made adjustments to the ordinance by including exceptions for hosts calling in medical emergencies – those hosts would not be fined – and after hearing the concerns of the youths.

Members of the Placer County Youth Commission came forward one by one to offer reasons for the council to act.

“It’s about the good kid who gets pressured into hosting a party when their parents are gone,” said Placer County youth commissioner Kathryn Sobczak, 16.

Another student spoke of the parents of football players who provided beer and two bottles of Jack Daniels for a party after a winning game.

In a huddle outside the City Council chambers after the meeting, the members of the Placer County Youth Commission celebrated their victory and looked to their next steps. “We’ll take on Lincoln or Loomis next,” Sobczak said. “We’re really excited.”

Exceptions in the Roseville law also account for 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.

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