Should parents who didn’t provide the alcohol but knew their teens were drinking at home still be punished?

It’s known as a social host ordinance and Kennesaw is the latest city in many across the nation to pass one.

The ordinance means that adults can be punished with fines or jail time if they know or should know that teens are drinking in their home.  Experts say the social host ordinances fill a gap in underage drinking laws in which cops have to prove that parents “dispensed” the drinks for the teens.

From The AJC (I bolded the meat of the article at the bottom):

“Adults in Kennesaw who let teenagers drink alcohol at their home might feel less hospitable now that they could be penalized with fines or jail time.”

“A new social host ordinance, sometimes called a teen party ordinance, enacted Wednesday night by the City Council makes it a misdemeanor to allow youngsters to imbibe. Adults who knew or should have known such activities were occurring under their nose can be punished by up to six months in prison or a $300 fine in addition to a possible civil penalty.

The amount of the possible civil penalty isn’t specified in the new ordinance. Lt. Craig Graydon of the Kennesaw Police Department said it would be determined by a judge.

Kennesaw is following municipalities and counties in at least 24 states that have passed similar ordinances. The city of Austell was the first in Cobb County to enact a social host ordinance last year. The county passed its version in July.

The ordinance is aimed at curbing binge drinking as well as the consumption of alcohol by persons under 21 in a city where thousands of Kennesaw State University students live.

Cathy Finck, executive director of the Cobb Alcohol Task Force, said the law won’t punish parents whose children throw a secret party while they are out of town.

“This is for the parent who says kids are going to drink anyway, so I’m going to take their keys and let them drink in my basement,” Finck said. “If we let them know they could be liable for a large fine and confinement, they might think twice about it.”

Older siblings, landlords or tenants who play host to underage drinking parties also could be held liable.

Graydon said the ordinance addresses a gap in the current state law that prohibits furnishing alcohol to a minor. That law is more difficult to enforce because police have to prove the adult actually dispensed the alcohol, he said.”

I am fascinated that older siblings could be held liable as well.

So do you think there is a gap in the underage drinking laws? What do you think of the social host ordinance? Would it keep you from letting teens drink in the basement? Is that a good thing or is it forcing them out of the house and onto the roads to drink?

50 comments Add your comment


December 19th, 2012
7:03 pm

Social host liability is a well-established legal concept. YOU, as the ADULT, are RESPONSIBLE for the things that go on in your home. Period.


December 19th, 2012
7:15 pm

While I agree with catlady, that yes, as the parent, you are responsible for what occurs at your home, I’m equally fascinated/disturbed that older siblings can be held responsible. Unless the sibling is the homeowner or legal tenant, I fail to see how they could be held responsible. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge, maybe, but liable under this social ordinance, I just don’t see it.


December 19th, 2012
7:48 pm

Absolutely. The consumption of alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal, and parents are responsible for the actions of anyone living in their home. It’s the same concept the DEA uses if they raid the house because the child is selling drugs out of the home–the parents’ property can be seized.


December 19th, 2012
7:50 pm

Absolutely. This should be covered under state law in the first place, hopefully this is taken as a model.


December 19th, 2012
8:01 pm

I look forward to seeing a society that has moved beyond the banal antiquities of prohibition, MAAD, and petty political mudslinging and demonization of detractors. Someday. Someday…


December 19th, 2012
9:34 pm

Yes, the parents should be held responsible. However, as someone once told me- in other countries, wine is served with dinner and the children are taught how to drink responsibly, perhaps starting as an early teen. Does that mean that the teen will always drink responsibly? Probably not. A lot of Americans tell their children that they can’t have it, it’s off limits, etc. but then they run in groups where someone has access to alcohol. What happens- they learn by drinking, getting sick, having a hangover, or harming themselves or others. The parents should be held responsible and so should the teen.


December 19th, 2012
9:34 pm

If you are allow the minors to drink it should be your responsibility. Why would you not hold the adults responsible for looking the other way?


December 19th, 2012
9:42 pm

Wait a minute, doesn’t Kennesaw also have an ordinance (sic) requiring ordnance (sic) ownership?Then this new ordinance doesn’t make sense. Don’t you need brandy (sic) to brandish (sic) ordnance (sic)? There’s something really wrong here. The law is out of order. The courts are out of order. The ordinance is out of order. I think the law should read, “everytime someone shoots their gun in the air on a friday night, everyone has to take a shot (hic).” There’s no understanding some city councils.


December 19th, 2012
9:51 pm

Why is the fine so low? $300 fine – (that’s not much more than a speeding ticket) and only the possibility of jail time up to six months or civil penalty. I like it when the newspapers name the parents and show pictures when the parents were aware of a drinking party in their home. You as a parent are responsible, especially when other teens are in your home who may drive home after drinking.

Atlanta Mom

December 19th, 2012
10:10 pm

A few years back I heard a lecture by J Tom Morgan (retired Dekalb Cty prosecutor) and he explained that parents could give only their own children a drink, and only in their own home. I guess this must have been for either Fulton and or Dekalb county.


December 19th, 2012
10:34 pm

I will never advocate illegal activity under my roof, period.


December 19th, 2012
10:43 pm

I would like to see statistics on teen drinking when it was legal at 18 vs. 21. Were there more accidents? Give us some facts.



December 19th, 2012
10:45 pm

I fail to see how a sibling could/should be held responsible. It’s not their home, they’re not the parent, and if there is a party going on, shouldn’t the parents be responsible anyway?
To DeKalb students: see the different uses of ‘their’, ‘they’re, and ‘there’?


December 19th, 2012
11:05 pm

The drinking age NEVER should have been increased to 21 from 18. It goes against reason – remember “Old enough to die (in war) but not old enough to vote”? If you have teh sense to be able to vote or be drafted, you have the maturity to decide to drink or not.

I have withdrawn my support from MADD after they became MAD – Mothers Against Drinking.


December 19th, 2012
11:08 pm

An “older” sibling could/should be responsible if they are playing host to a party where there is underage drinking. If they are over 21, adult providing alcohol to minor, if they are under 21, they are not legally allowed to drink.


December 19th, 2012
11:34 pm

There are too many loopholes with this law. What if your teenager comes home drunk with friends? Should you call the cops immediately to have them arrested? There will be no way to enforce the “dispense” clause as well, so it’s all for show. @Meli, you surely aren’t advocating DEA seizures, right? you’re telling me if your child hid a dimebag of weed in an obscure part of your house, then you should be charged with possession? I guess I have to get a dog who can sniff anything remotely illegal (i.e., drunk minors, penny poker, freedom in Georgia, etc.) while I’m away at my house and not holding my child’s hands

A person SMART enough to know.....

December 19th, 2012
11:42 pm

I know the Government doesn’t know how better to raise or discipline my children. Get the freaking Government out of my house on issues that are not their business.

A person SMART enough to know.....

December 19th, 2012
11:44 pm

This is going to be more about the College parties than anything else. Watch how the cops will be trying to use this at Kennesaw State parties every weekend now.

December 20th, 2012
1:24 am

We have been researching the growth of social host laws and ordinances across the country since 2005. Author Giarusso has the correct information while Cathy Finck, executive director of the Cobb Alcohol Task Force, is completely inaccurate about what your local law covers. There are well-written and poorly-written SHLs. Laws that as broadly written as this one are being challenged as unconstitutional in courts across the country as innocent homeowners are getting fined and humiliated by their local press and PTAs.
Also, as is the case here, there is often confusion between the social host law and the furnishing law. A FURNISHING law penalizes anyone of any age who provides or serves alcohol to a minor not their own child. There are often exceptions for religious occasions and for spouses. A SOCIAL HOST LAW is supposed to penalize anyone who intentionally “permits” underage drinking on their property, meaning they know that alcohol is being consumed but are attempting to avoid the loophole in the furnishing law. That is the situation that Cathy Finck describes. However, the letter of the local law spells out that “Adults who knew or should have known” are liable. “Should have known” is one of those terms that turns a simple little loophole-filler into a borderline-unconstitutional law.
For more information about Social Host Laws, including how to write an effective Social Host Law, visit


December 20th, 2012
1:45 am

@ A person SMART enough to know….. – It’s not about you and how you discipline your child within your home; it’s when you or your child “provides” alcohol to someone else’s children and/or when they leave your property and drive in public. That “is” the business of others. This law is for the parents that are not providing discipline AND are providing alcohol to other minors.


December 20th, 2012
6:49 am

I agree 100% with Ann above. But with one caveat – this law is also for naive parents who may be providing discipline, but feel that their child will never succumb to the peer pressure that is greater than any allegiance to a parent when the chips are down. As a retired school head, if I had a nickel for every time a sincere and “good” parent said “I trust my child. They wouldn’t do something like that” I’d be a wealthy man. A good example is the parent who will go away for a weekend leaving their senior or junior in high school home alone because he or she is “a good kid”. I guarantee that word gets around about that absence of a parent and more often than not a group of kids appear – sometimes invited but often not – on the doorstep. Not too many “good kids” would be able to turn those friends away. And more often than not drinking will follow. LIkewise, the parent who asks “wouldn’t you rather have your child and his friends drinking under your supervised conditions than out on the road somewhere” is often heard. My answer as a school head was always “you obviously have answered your own question when it comes to your child. But what about the other parents who are not aware of your philosophy and have a child in attendance at the party at your home?” My only question about this ordinance which I am 100% in support of, is will the authorities truly enforce it? Or is it simply another law on the books to be ignored or at the very best, sporadically enforced and pursued by the court?


December 20th, 2012
6:52 am

So the article was unclear if we are only talking about “minors” (i.e, people under 18) or if it applied to nineteen-year olds living at home? At 18, you are legally an adult and are not really subject to parental discipline. Should parents be arrested and fined if their 19-year-old has some friends over and has drinks in their basement apartment? Something you morally have no issue with? If you see a friend driving faster than 55 inside the perimeter, should it be a law that you call and report them to the Ga State Patrol? (not that calling ever produces any results – I have called several times with absolutely no results).

FCM on my cell

December 20th, 2012
8:11 am

@ANN…it has been at least 15 years since I did a paper involving the drinking age. I do not have exact stats BUT one thing about it stuck with me. When the age was 18 there were more DUI related deaths among 16 to 18 year olds. When it went to 21 the 19 – 22 yo in DUI related deaths increased & the younger set decreased. My conclusion was the age of death changed not the number of DUI deaths, those stayed about the same. Therefore, teaching better drinking habits instead of binge drinking which occurs the first years near legal made sense. I am against a consumption…not purchase…age. If a parent wants to give alcohol to their minor even at a bar they shoyld be allowed.

If the parent allows said child to be drunk etc they should be subject to repercussions. This is about responsible behavior all around.

Despite what I think, I am a law abiding person. My kids arent allowed even a sip of anything. This is also b/c their Dad is an alcoholic. We have had long discussions about it & at this time they plan not to drink even.when they are legal. They also know that I am going to obey the laws b/c that is what we do. what parent would purposely teach their kids to break a law?


December 20th, 2012
8:24 am

I’ve always allowed my kids to drink, at my home, on special occasions, as they got older. My own mother buys wine for the kids for Christmas (one niece is still underage). and we have purchased alcohol for the kids while on vacation. We take one big family vacation every other year, my family, my parents, and my brother’s family, and we allow the kids to have alcohol, after dinner, when we are playing cards or board games. They are inside with us, not wandering around, and certainly NOT driving anywhere.

It’s a controlled environment.

Whirled Peas

December 20th, 2012
8:55 am

If they are not old enough to drink responsibly, how can you trust them to vote responsibly. Allowing most 18 year olds to vote is a mistake.


December 20th, 2012
9:28 am

I grew up in Louisiana and when I was in college the drinking age was still 18. I’ve never gotten arrested or in trouble for drinking, and believe me I did my fair share. My parents alway stressed no drinking and driving, call us if you need us, etc. Even in high school this was the message, because they were not stupid and knew what I was getting into. It’s all about teaching moderation and responsiblility.

In most cases, if you believe your child will wait until they turn 21 to drink, you are kidding yourself. Unless the college experience has totally changed since I was there in the 90’s, they are going to find a way. No, I don’t advise teenagers to go out drinking and especially driving but quite frankly as a parent I’d rather it be going on in my house or a friends home where my kid is safe rather than out on the streets.

Buzz Belle

December 20th, 2012
9:34 am

This country is so backward on alcohol issues! My daughter-in-law is German. They are legally allowed to drink beer at 16 but not allowed to drive until 18. This gives them two years to learn to drink responsibly. Germany doesn’t have near the alcohol issues this country has (even though it is known for its beer). Look at Italy, it is not uncommon to see children drinking wine at dinner. We expect 18 year olds to fight for this country but don’t feel they have the maturity to drink alcohol. If you allow your kids to drink, teach them the responsibility to go with it. That is a parents obligation.

Buzz Belle

December 20th, 2012
9:39 am

Yuki – I agree. I allow my kids who are right now underage to drink at my home and when we are on vacation. They are keenly aware of the responsibility that goes with drinking! They never get behind the wheel of a car, nor do they get in a car when someone else has been drinking. They are college age and they see what some of the students do because as soon as they get to college they start drinking because they are away from their parents “rule” for the first time. These are the ones who can’t handle alcohol, not the ones who have been introduced to it responsibly. These are also the ones who get into the most trouble. Why can’t our society see this?

FCM on my cell

December 20th, 2012
9:48 am

It used to b, not sure if it still is, legal to serve military personnel aged 18 – 20 when they were on base. Also PX could sell to them. Certain bars near base (especially adult eentertainment venues were allowed as well). This was in.the 90s after age became 21


December 20th, 2012
10:45 am

My daughter came to me on her 20th birthday and said she wanted to try a mixed drink and I said no problem. I figured she was old enough to join the Army (which she did) and handle a military rifle so she was old enough to have a drink. She hated it though and doesn’t drink at all now that shes of age.


December 20th, 2012
10:53 am

Agree with the question posed on the blog heading, but I do think the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18 like it is in Canada, Europe and other parts of the world. If you’re old enough to serve in the military and be drafted by it, and be considered an adult in most other matters, I’d think you’re old enough to drink legally.


December 20th, 2012
11:18 am

Yes, they should be held accountable – even if they didn’t provide the alcohol – they should know what their children are doing! End of story.

Anton Chigurh

December 20th, 2012
12:04 pm

Voice of Reason

December 20th, 2012
12:09 pm

Oh look! Another law passes that’s near impossible to enforce. It is VERY easy to feign ignorance and get away with it. I don’t know where that alcohol came from officer.

Just like texting while driving where I can simply say that I was only dialing a phone number and not texting.

A stupid law enacted because a small handful of stupid people did stupid things. Why do the rest of us have to suffer for it?

Because most of you are sheep, that’s why, you like being told what you can and cannot do and are either not smart enough to think for yourselves or just too lazy to do so.

My faith in humanity loses three points on this day….it’s a good thing the world ends tomorrow. That was a joke, btw. Sheeple.


December 20th, 2012
12:16 pm

No officer I wasn’t texting, I was Facebooking. No law against that!!! LOL

What's best for kids?

December 20th, 2012
1:09 pm

Yes, if the child does not belong to them, they should be responsible. If I want to allow my child to drink in my home, then that is a completely different story. I will not allow any child that is not borne of me to be drinking underage in my home, though.


December 20th, 2012
2:40 pm

I grew up a lot differently. Having European parents, I was allowed to drink with dinner from a very young age. A glass of wine or a beer was acceptable. I think what’s happening now leads to binge drinking.

On another note, and given what has happened in Netwon, this video is especially timely. It was posted in 2010, but could have been posted last week, given what has happened…

FCM on my cell

December 20th, 2012
4:15 pm

What if the other childs parents are present? I was allowed to drink at certain houses if my parents were there. In fact the only time I did drink in HS that they were not present was a sinlge beer at prom. my date did not drink, but I recall very clearly he was concerned my Dad would kill him if he broght me home wirh beer on my breath. I am a total geek…..i called home said I am having a beer. Do not blame my date, he is nit drinking. my mom asked if shw could talk me out of it. i saud no. she said u will owe the piper in the morning. tell date to be careful & he will not have reprocussions from me.

FCM on my cell

December 20th, 2012
4:17 pm

Crap i hate typing on my i have not been drinking before the post above.

mystery poster

December 20th, 2012
8:31 pm

I also had someone in law enforcement tell me it was perfectly legal for me to serve my own underage child alcohol in my own home.

I want to know, exactly how many people constitutes a “party?”


December 21st, 2012
12:41 am

Georgia State Law OCGA

§ 3-3-23. Furnishing to, purchase of, or possession by persons under 21 years of age of alcoholic beverages; use of false identification; proper identification; dispensing, serving, selling, or handling by persons under 21 years of age in the course of employment; seller’s actions upon receiving false identification

(a) Except as otherwise authorized by law:

(1) No person knowingly, directly or through another person, shall furnish, cause to be furnished, or permit any person in such person’s employ to furnish any alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age;

(2) No person under 21 years of age shall purchase, attempt to purchase, or knowingly possess any alcoholic beverage;

(3) No person under 21 years of age shall misrepresent such person’s age in any manner whatever for the purpose of obtaining illegally any alcoholic beverage;

(4) No person knowingly or intentionally shall act as an agent to purchase or acquire any alcoholic beverage for or on behalf of a person under 21 years of age; or

(5) No person under 21 years of age shall misrepresent his or her identity or use any false identification for the purpose of purchasing or obtaining any alcoholic beverage.

(c) The prohibitions contained in paragraphs (1), (2), and (4) of subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply with respect to the possession of alcoholic beverages for consumption by a person under 21 years of age when the parent or guardian of the person under 21 years of age gives the alcoholic beverage to the person and when possession is in the home of the parent or guardian and such parent or guardian is present.

§ 16-11-44. Maintaining a disorderly house

A person who keeps and maintains, either by himself or others, a common, ill-governed, and disorderly house, to the encouragement of gaming, drinking, or other misbehavior, or to the common disturbance of the neighborhood or orderly citizens, is guilty of a misdemeanor.


December 21st, 2012
7:10 am

QUESTION: Should parents who didn’t provide the alcohol but knew their teens were drinking at home still be punished?

ANSWER: Absolutely. How could any responsible parent look the other way while this is happening. Unfortunately, it appears to be the norm.

Fetus Breath

December 21st, 2012
9:32 am

Theresa……You’re an idiot.

What did you think people were going to answer?


December 21st, 2012
11:28 am

I don’t understand the parents who allow their underage kids to drink. You are teaching them that it’s okay to break any laws that you don’t happen to like.

I personally think the legal age should be lowered or eliminated. If that somehow happens by the time my kids are teens, I won’t mind if they have a glass of wine with dinner. If the legal age is still 21, I will insist that they wait.

On rare occasions it’s necessary to defy laws that are grossly unjust or just plain evil. This is not one of those times. The legal drinking age is a silly law, but there is no morally compelling reason to encourage our kids to break it.


December 21st, 2012
11:30 am

Another Louisiana native here who was of age when of age was still 18. In my parents household the kids were usually served watered down red wine with dinner. My mom would buy me a daiquiri during Mardi Gras and I was allowed to drink beer when we had crawfish boils, all once I was in high school.

The first time I got DRUNK was totally by accident. I was in Moscow and it was New Year’s Eve. We were in Red Square. I was almost 18 and someone bought a gallon of Stoli. I’d never had vodka before. I got so sick that I didn’t touch vodka for 10 years after that!

Anyway, in theory, I agree with this law. Parents shouldn’t host drinking parties at their homes. It’s not a good idea for kids to sit around and drink as part of socializing.

But if the law extends to disallowing a parent to serve alcohol to their own child in their own home or another private setting, then I have a problem with it. Barring abusive consumption, of course.

who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men

December 21st, 2012
11:45 am

@ observer and jessica

I hope neither of you enjoy oral loving…otherwise you just breaking a law you don’t agree with.

(A) a person commits the offense of sodomy when he or she performs or submits to any sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of anoher.
(B) a person convicted of the offense sodomy shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years.


December 21st, 2012
12:03 pm

Yes, and I certainly hope you are doing the speed limit, stopping completely at stop signs, and yielding when posted.

German Dad

December 21st, 2012
2:08 pm

I’m drunk right now.


December 22nd, 2012
8:34 am

@missnadine thank you for the video :)


December 22nd, 2012
12:51 pm

Nowhere in this article does it mention that alcohol IS A DRUG! In fact, according to many chemists, doctors, researchers, etc. it is THE WORST ONE OF ALL! So why differentiate between alcohol and pot or cocaine? Therein lies the problem. Just because it’s “socially acceptable” and someone is “sweeping around your back porch” when the chastise it? This is the most hypocritical issue of today.
AZ has passed a law that states everyone caught on their first offense spends 10 days in jail. It has reduced DUIs by 50% already. It’s about time. One third of all the deaths in traffic accidents in the USA each year are from alcohol-related accidents. That amounts to 10K-11K per year! If 30 jumbo jets went down in one year, all HELL would break loose. That is what it amounts to. What is wrong with this country?