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Serving minors alcohol at parties brings thousand-dollar fines

MADD finance chairman tells Irvine City Council about 8% of Orange County's drunk driving arrests are younger than 21.

November 10, 2011|By Sarah Peters

IRVINE — Being a "cool" parent could land you up to $3,000 in fines if you serve alcohol to minors, according to a new ordinance the City Council unanimously approved this week.

The ordinance, which underwent a first reading Tuesday night, fines hosts up to $750 upon first warning, up to $1,500 for a second warning within a 12-month period and up to $3,000 for further warnings.

"I just want to make clear that serving alcohol to minors in a private home is not a private matter," Todd Spitzer, finance chairman for the county chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said to council members. "There may be some people who feel that government has no right to intrude into our homes, to tell us what kind of conduct we can engage in, but the lines are not just blurred, there is obviously a very clear demarcation when individuals decide in an adult capacity to furnish minors [with] alcohol."

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About 8% of the county's drunk driving arrests are people younger than 21, Spitzer said.

The ordinance targets "social hosts," defined as a "responsible person who makes alcohol available and/or permits the consumption of alcohol by an underage person at a gathering or event held on private property," according to a city staff report.

There are exemptions, including alcohol consumed for religious purposes or if the host can prove that they under went steps to prevent the underage drinking such as notifying the police.

"I do think protection of our children is paramount — it's what we do as parents," Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway said. "The most vulnerable in our city need our help to be guided and to understand what's important and how to live their lives as responsible adults."

While also in support of the ordinance, Mayor Pro Tem Beth Krom said that it was only one small piece to addressing a larger nationwide issue.

"I would like to see us focus on the enforcement, but I would also like to see us focus on the education," Krom said. "Because, often I think there is a resistance on the part of young people and others to reach out to law enforcement when there is a problem because the perception is that the only way with deal with this is through punitive measures and enforcement."

sarah.peters@latimes.com

Twitter: @speters01

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