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San Antonio property owners will now be held accountable for any underage drinking that takes place on their turf — whether they've condoned it or not.
City Council unanimously passed a law Thursday, dubbed the "Social Host Ordinance," that would fine homeowners if minors are found drinking on their property. In brief, this would hold parents accountable for the crazy party their high school kid threw when they were out of town (according to state data, house parties are teens' main source for booze).
Unlike the current law that prohibits adults from providing alcohol to kids, this new regulation would not stick the offender with criminal charges, only a civil fine. This $300 charge, similar to a speeding ticket, is meant to cover the cost of sending law enforcement out to investigate parties with underage drinking, according to Councilman Rey Saldaña, who backed the measure.
"It should be the type of penalty that would send a message, not only that you are allowing underage drinking and all the ill effects it could have...but that you bear the brunt of that in your pocketbook as well,” Saldaña told KSAT in August.
Saldaña introduced the measure to council with the promise that it would reduce drunk driving, sexual assaults, vandalism, and "excessive noise disturbances," to name a few. He also said homeowners would be able to appeal the charge if they can prove they didn't know underage drinking was going on. It's unknown if that process made it to the final draft of the measure.
After the council vote, Saldaña's office issued a press release, calling the decision an "initial step of an initiative expected to...alter the drinking culture among minors."