More cities and counties are cracking down on underage drinkers by giving police authority to bust home parties and fine adults who permit them, including parents, USA Today reports. “Social host” ordinances, some carrying maximum fines of $2,500 or more, have been enacted in hundreds of locales, says the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center in Calverton, Md. Many were passed after a 2003 federal study cited health risks of teenage binge drinking and urged tougher enforcement.
Every state bars furnishing alcohol to minors; 32 have social host laws, says Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Typically they’re criminal laws and often not enforced aggressively, says Dan Hicks of Ventura County Limits, an initiative to curb underage binge drinking. “A criminal offense makes it an ordinance that sits on the shelf,” he says. “It clogs the courts, requires more burden of proof, takes more time and energy and costs taxpayers a lot more money.”