A Host of Trouble

More parents are being held criminally liable for their teens' drinking parties.

FE_DA_071008liability.jpg

The aftermath of a night of drinking in a Panama City, FL hotel room during Spring Break.

By SHARE

Although some party-goers testified against him, Holly was acquitted. Says an angry Perrin: "It should have been this man who paid the price." Trying to make him do just that, Perrin has filed a civil suit against Holly's wife, who owns their home. Holly's lawyer, Michael Erlich, says his client is not responsible. "It can get to a point where [the law is] not reasonable anymore," he says. "We have to hold teens to some standard that they can take responsibility."

Few would disagree with that sentiment, but the pressure is on public officials to fight teen drinking on all fronts. That's why Tucson, Ariz., which has also passed a social host ordinance, is focusing on landlords. In 2001, Tucson alerted landlords that they could be in legal trouble if they didn't take action against underage revelers. So Ricardo Fernandez, who manages a 300-unit apartment complex near the University of Arizona, declared that renters would be evicted if they violated the city's underage drinking laws. Other landlords followed suit. The result: Citywide arrest rates for minors caught with alcohol have dropped almost 20 percent since 2004.

Likewise, the city of Long Beach, N.Y., has taken a broader approach by extending the limits of its ban on outdoor drinking. "Social host is not a silver bullet," says Lt. John Radin of the Long Beach Police Department. "It's got to be part of a systematic strategy."