SJ city leaders vote to on social host ordinance

November 11, 2010 6:35:02 AM PST
San Jose city officials are cracking down on teen drinking, taking a first step toward punishing parents who enable underage drinkers. Their action is aimed at preventing a repeat of a recent tragedy.

The tragedy that's compelling one San Jose councilmember to take action against illegal drinking happened on Almaden Expressway in south San Jose. A cross marks the spot where one of two teens died in a horrific car crash and fire -- the driver was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. The fatal car accident in late September, involving two 18-year-old Leland High School graduates, is what's prompting a legal look into harsher action against underage drinking.

While it's unclear where and how the teen driver allegedly got drunk, San Jose Councilmember Nancy Pyle says it moved her to propose an ordinance that would punish parents for underage drinking at home.

A council committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to begin researching such a social host ordinance.

Already Santa Clara County and nine of its cities have adopted this type of law, which penalizes adults with fines up to $1,000 for giving liquor to kids, and for allowing underage drinking in the home.

State laws also crack down on teen boozing -- it's already illegal for adults to provide alcohol to those under 21, plus there are stiffer penalties if an underage drinker is later caught driving drunk or hurts anyone. And come January, a new state law will allow lawsuits against any adult who knowingly gives alcohol to youth in their home.

An open forum to discuss the proposed law will be held December 3 at 6 p.m. at the Mayfair Community Center. But critics are skeptical that such laws make any difference in teen behavior. Even so, the San Jose council committee is moving forward with plans to review the research into this social host ordinance and reconsider it next month.


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