New Tempe Ordinance Aimed at Preventing Underage Drinking

Many parents allow teenagers to drink in their homes, believing that it is better for the underage teens to drink in a controlled environment and where they are required to turn in their car keys at the beginning of the night. A new ordinance is going into effect in Tempe in February 2012 that is aimed at curtailing these practices.

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The new “social host” ordinance will fine adults who host unlawful gatherings where alcohol is served $250 or require them to take a substance abuse education class.

The Tempe ordinance is supported by a coalition of parents, educators, health workers, and youth-and-social service groups who are concerned about the long-term effects on minors who drink alcohol. They are concerned about the teens’ brain development and the risk of addiction. According to the coalition, the purpose of this ordinance is to educate, not to punish.

Arizona has a law that charges adults with a misdemeanor if they serve alcohol to an underage person who is not a family member or who does not live with them. This ordinance will apply even if to parents who give alcohol to their children; the fee will cover the cost of police services for responding to a report of an unlawful gathering.

The coalition’s research found that many adults were not being charged with providing alcohol to minors because the police could not reach the high burden of proof for charging the hosts with a criminal or civil offense. The city ordinance has a lower burden of proof because it is not a criminal or civil offense.

The cost to attend the class will be $100; however attending the class will only be an option for the first offense. The fine for the second offense is $1,000. The fine for each subsequent offense is $1,500.