Hosts liable for underage drinking

Council unanimous on bill aimed at residences; response costs a factor

Maui County Council unanimously approved a bill that will make the host of a Maui gathering at home or another private residence liable for illegal underage drinking.

In efforts to protect public health and reduce the costs of emergency response services, the council voted 9-0 during its meeting Friday afternoon to approve the social host bill on second and final reading. It will take effect Sept. 1 on Maui island.

Molokai and Lanai received exemptions from the rule in a 5-4 council vote last month due to “unintended consequences the bill would have on communities of those island,” said Council member Mike Molina as he read the details of the bill Friday.

Violating Maui’s social host ordinance, will carry a $200 civil fine for the first violation, $500 for second violation and $1,000 for third violation within a 12-month period. Subsequent violations within the same 12-month period may require reimbursement of police, fire or other emergency response service costs.

The bill defines the responsible party as someone who “conducts, aids, allows, permits or facilitates a gathering where an underage person possesses or consumes intoxicating liquor.” Gatherings are defined as settings with two or more people.

Liability falls on the party with a right of possession to the residence or other private property at which a gathering occurs, such as a property owner, tenant, or lessee, according to the bill. If the responsible person is a minor, the minor’s parents or legal guardians will be liable.

The notice of violation and order will become final unless an appeal is filed with the police commission within 30 days.

“This will be another tool in the proverbial tool box to help keep young people in our community safe from intoxicating liquor,” Molina said.

Scores of residents testified to support the ordinance.

“As the chief executive of the treatment facility and a social worker, I can tell you that drug and alcohol addiction starts early,” Jud Cunningham of Aloha House said Friday. “Experiences of house parties with alcohol and drugs can jumpstart a lifetime of addiction and harm.”

The new rule offers one solution because it would create positive change in the environment in which kids grow up, he added.

Council member Yuki Lei Sugimura said Friday that the rule will be evaluated for efficacy after two years.

Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth began an online petition to support the rule. The coalition said Maui County youth consume more alcohol and binge drink at higher rates compared to other Hawaii counties, citing data from the state Education and Health departments, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Less underage drinking at house parties would mean fewer incidents of teen sexual assaults, drunk driving, alcohol-related emergency room visits and arrests, the coalition said.

The coalition will help educate the public about the ordinance before its effective date, according to the bill.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.


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