Social Host Ordinance Q&A
Below or the Questions and Answers regarding the City's Social Host Ordinace. 

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Can a "Social Host" be under the age of 21?
In some communities with similar regulations, they can. However, the Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance limits the age to 21 or over.

Can the police enter my home without my permission?

The ordinance does not change the entry rights of the police into your home and contains wording in section 8.05.010(b) which state the following:

“This chapter shall not be construed as adding any additional authority for any law enforcement officer or government official to either enter private property or subject any property or person to search or seizure that does not otherwise exist independent of the provisions of this chapter.”

Although the police are constrained from randomly entering a person’s home or other private property without invitation, certain exigencies may overrule your right to privacy. Examples of exceptions include; if the officer believes someone in the residence requires medical assistance, if an
act of violence is occurring, if the officer believes a felony has been committed and evidence may be destroyed, or if the officer is pursuing a violator who runs onto the property. In other situations, the welfare of children, animals or some danger to public safety may also generate legitimate grounds for immediate entry. An officer may also seek a search warrant.

Does the Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance give the police authority to enter my home without my permission?
Without your authorization, a police officer cannot enter your home pursuant to provisions established exclusively in local regulations. It has been long established that such intrusions fall under the United States Constitution and a police officer’s actions are regulated by extensive federal and state court decisions commonly referred to as “search and seizure” laws. State law requires all police officers to study specific learning domains regulated by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. The Laguna Beach Police Department takes these duties seriously and ensures that the sworn police staff is well versed in this body of law.

How are Social Host Ordinances enforced? What are the penalties?
When local police personnel respond to an event where underage people are gathering, and through the normal course of an investigation they are able to determine that underage alcohol consumption took place, the individual host of the social event can be issued a citation and charged with violating the Social Host Ordinance. Depending on the circumstances, a violator may be prosecuted by the City criminally, civilly and/or administratively as provided by the municipal code. Furthermore, according to California state law, violators may also be held liable for injuries sustained by third parties as a result of the minor guest's negligence.

How is "gathering" defined in the Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance?
A "gathering” is a party, gathering, or event where a group of two or more persons have assembled or are assembling for a social occasion or social activity.

How is the Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance different than laws that already exist?
Under current laws, it is illegal to furnish alcohol to individuals under the age of 21, although many of these provisions only apply in public and not on private property. Additionally, in a party setting, it is often difficult or impossible to identify who provided the alcohol. Therefore, the Social Host Ordinance assigns responsibility to those who knew or should have known that a party involving underage alcohol consumption was occurring on their property.

How many individuals can receive a citation for each gathering?
One or more hosts can be cited for the unlawful gathering, if there is evidence of multiple hosts. Minors not hosting the party but who consume alcohol could be cited for drinking alcohol at the gathering, too.

If all youth are going to drink anyway, isn't it better to "take the keys" and provide them a safe place to do so?
No. Driving drunk is not the only negative outcome of underage drinking. Drinking parties often involve binge drinking (5 or more drinks on one occasion) which greatly increases the risk of alcohol poisoning, accidents and injury, motor vehicle crashes, mixing alcohol with other drugs, violence, sexual abuse and the practice of unsafe and unprotected sex.

If I am upstairs sleeping and my child sneaks booze into the house, am I responsible?
Adults who knowingly allow underage alcohol use on their private property will be held responsible. If an adult is not aware that an underage person brought alcohol onto the property, or if the underage person is concealing the alcohol, that adult will not be held responsible.

If I go away on vacation or even go to a restaurant around the corner and my child hosts an underage drinking party without my knowledge, am I responsible?
Under the Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance, parents are not criminally responsible for hosting the party if they are not at home and their children hold a drinking party without their knowledge. A person 21 or over in control of the house could be cited criminally for hosting the party. This law doesn't change existing civil laws under which adults can be held fiscally responsible for injuries or other consequences that occur regardless of whether they are present or not.

If I host a party where alcohol is served, how can I avoid breaking the law?
Simple. Take reasonable steps to prevent minors from drinking alcohol. Supervise the distribution of the beverages containing alcohol and monitor the actions of the minors at the event.

Under what circumstances might the police discover a “hosting” violation?
The police may be called out to private gatherings for a number of reasons. Loud music or loud voices are the predominant source of complaints. Often when underage persons consume alcoholic beverages, they make poor choices and act out with inappropriate behavior, which results in a police response. Historically the police have witnessed incidents involving urination in neighbor’s yards, throwing beer bottles in the street, throwing beer bottles at the arriving police, fighting in the street, jumping over fences, and public nudity. In other cases, officers may be present for a totally unrelated call or may observe a violation outside of the residence during routine patrol.

What happens if I find underage drinkers at a party I am hosting?

If you discover that underage people are drinking at your party, ask them to stop. If they refuse, you may have to call the Police Department. In the event the underage person is under 18 years old, you should contact the minor’s parents and determine a safe way to deliver the youth home.

What if underage drinkers are trespassing on my property?
The provisions of the Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance shall not apply in the case of a party or gathering consisting entirely of people trespassing on the premise or residence.

What is a "Social Host?"
Under the City’s ordinance, a "Social Host" is a person age 21 or over who permits or allows a gathering where one or more minors consume alcoholic beverages on property owned or controlled by that person.

What is a Social Host Ordinance?
A Social Host Ordinance is a local law that essentially makes it illegal to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who provides the alcohol.

What is involved in attending a class for a first-time offender of the Social Host Ordinance?
The ordinance includes provisions for first-time offenders, at their election in lieu of a fine and at their sole expense, to attend a class consisting of approximately six to ten hours of instruction addressing current issues involving alcohol usage and abuse by underage persons. Suggested topics might include national studies into the costs of underage drinking, review of current medical findings concerning alcohol use by minors, and steps to limiting underage person’s access to alcoholic beverages.

What is the administrative fine for violating the Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance?
The fine was established by resolution as required in the ordinance to be $1,000 per violation, however, a first time offender may have the fine waived if they attend and complete a class as approved by the Chief of Police.

When did the Social Host Ordinance go into effect?
The Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance went into effect on January 4th, 2013.

Why does the Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance target parties that occur on private residences and premises?
Parties and gatherings on private property have repeatedly been identified as the primary source by which youth obtain alcohol. Youth obtain alcohol at parties through friends, older siblings or adults.

Why should I care about the Social Host Ordinance?
Alcohol is the drug of choice for youth, causing more harm and death for young people than all illegal drugs, combined. There are also serious second hand effects of underage drinking, endangering public health, safety and quality of life. An intoxicated juvenile is also more prone to experimenting with other illegal or prescription drugs. The Laguna Beach Social Host Ordinance can impact underage drinking. In research conducted by the Public Services Research Institute, alcohol abuse by minors results in nearly 3,200 deaths a year and costs the United States $62 billion in related damage, including traffic crashes, violence, teen pregnancies, STDs, burns, alcohol poisoning, property damage, and other risks. In recent years, the costs associated to traffic accidents alone exceed $13.7 billion annually.

Will the citations go to the property owner or the individual host?
The individual host(s).