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Parents may be on the hook for teen drinking

The H.B. City Council has taken steps toward ordinance to prevent parents from serving alcohol to minors.

February 20, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio

Huntington Beach parents could potentially be fined for serving alcohol to minors at gatherings.

Council members voted Tuesday night to add a social hosting ordinance to the city's "loud party" law, giving police the ability to fine those who knowingly serve alcohol to underage persons.

Preliminary approval of the item, submitted by Councilman Joe Carchio, passed in a 5-2 vote, with Councilwoman Jill Hardy and Mayor Pro Tem Matt Harper dissenting.

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"The kids in high school are begging for something to be in place," Carchio said, believing that teens will feel safer going to parties knowing that a law would deter parents from serving alcohol. "This is just another tool for the police."

If passed in a future meeting, hosts could be fined a flat fee of $250, but administrative fees could possibly tack on up to $750 for first-time violators.

Hardy said she doesn't want to encourage underage drinking, but thinks adding on another layer to existing laws isn't necessary.

"The potential for a parent being accused of hosting [a party with alcohol] when they're not just seems too strong here," she said. "I can come up with a lot of scenarios where parents genuinely have no idea but then they get accused of serving alcohol to minors."

Harper shared the same concerns Hardy had, with his biggest concern being the amount of "unintended consequences" this ordinance could possibly have.

Of the 21 speakers at the meeting, only one person raised concerns about the issue, asking the council not to pass the ordinance.

"The issue of serving alcohol to children is covered by state criminal code already, contributing to the delinquency of minors," said Howard Hills, a resident who was a former navy officer and worked in the National Security Council during the Reagan administration.

Hills added that since the amendment focuses on alcohol consumption only, it could possibly create reasons for "irresponsible adults who want to party with kids to use marijuana and prescription drugs."

"We haven't had a cross-section of stakeholders or interested parties comment on this," Harper said. "If this were to be proposed at the legislative level, there would be a wide variety of people that would take an interest."

Harper believes it isn't just the city's responsibility to stop underage drinking and that parents and residents need to work with police to curb the issue.

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