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January 10, 2014

Legislation looks to shut down the underage drinking party

Legislation would make adults accountable for youth drinking.

INDIANAPOLIS – Permissive parents who allow underage drinking in their homes could face arrest and prosecution under a proposed “social host” liability law.

Adults who allow minors to drink on property they own, rent or control would face jail time and fines in a bill filed by state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon.

The proposed legislation mirrors the so-called “social host” liability laws in at least 28 other states and goes beyond holding parents responsible for just providing alcohol to teens. The law would penalize adults for condoning teen drinking, even if those adults didn’t buy or supply the booze.

Miller said the law, if passed, won’t stop underage drinking, but it will give law enforcement a tool to prosecute parents and other adults who make it easy for teenagers to drink illegally.

“More importantly, it would send a strong message to teens as well as adults that irresponsible alcohol use should be discouraged,” Miller said.

Some lawmakers have dubbed the legislation, filed as Senate Bill 28, “The Jack Trudeau Bill.” Trudeau, a former Indianapolis Colts quarterback, was arrested in 2007 for allowing underage drinking at his Boone County home during a high school graduation party for his daughter.

Trudeau later admitted to the infraction of inducing a minor to possess alcohol. But a prosecutor dropped criminal charges – including contributing to the delinquency of a minor – after Trudeau denied furnishing alcohol to the 13 teenagers who were also arrested at the party.

David Powell, head of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said “social host” laws are deterrents. “It will force parents who allow groups of teenagers in their homes to be more proactive about preventing drinking,” Powell said. “They’ll have a stake in the game.”

Miller’s bill makes it a Class B misdemeanor – carrying up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine – to “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally” provide the use of property for the purpose of allowing a minor to consume alcohol. A repeat offense jumps to a Class A misdemeanor, with up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The charge could be upgraded to a felony, with up to 2 ½ years in prison, if a minor’s drinking leads to serious injury or death.

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