Friday, July 10, 2020
US flag

Md. social hosting law said to be inadequate

A Montgomery County delegate wants to change the law in Maryland that imposes what he feels is an inadequate fine to deter adults from providing alcohol to unrelated minors in their homes, the Bethesda Beat magazine reports.

29 states allow underage drinking under the supervision of a parent.

Parents who host underage drinking parties could face jail time if the General Assembly passes a bill that Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, Democrat of District 15, wants to propose this year.

Under current law, adults who furnish alcohol to underage kids who aren’t direct family members face a $2,500 maximum fine. Mr Fraser-Hidalgo wants to send those adults to jail for up to a year for the first offense and two years for the second and impose fines of up to $5,000 and $7,500, respectively, for anyone who hosts a drinking party with children to whom they aren’t related.

“We commend Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo for recognizing the appalling inadequacy of the current Maryland social host laws and stand 100 percent behind him in his effort to increase the severity of penalties,” the magazine quoted Pamela and David Murk as saying in a statement provided by their attorney. They’re the parents of Alex Murk, who was killed by a drunk 19-year-old driver who had been drinking under the tutelage of a friend’s father.

“We can only hope the Maryland General Assembly has enough moral gumption to do the right thing by passing a bill that would deter … parents in our communities from hosting underage drinking parties so no other family has to endure the incredible pain we have in losing a son or daughter ever again.”

Research findings

Some people may argue that such a law wouldn’t serve as a deterrent, thinking that teens will drink anyway. This isn’t necessarily true.

Research has shown that teens whose parents consistently deliver a message about the dangers of underage drinking are less likely to consume alcohol or drive under the influence of alcohol. In fact, this research has been on the published scientific record for several decades:

While parental use and attitudes do not seem to significantly affect children’s alcohol use, the extent to which parents prohibit children from using alcohol at home tends to reduce children’s alcohol involvement. … Findings suggest that, while parents’ alcohol use influences children’s alcohol use through extensive interaction, parental control of underage alcohol use in the household appears to reduce children’s involvement in underage alcohol use.

Laws in other states

The underage drinking laws in Maryland are typical, and only five states provide no exceptions: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and West Virginia. In these five states, individuals under 21 aren’t allowed to consume alcohol under any circumstances.

In 45 states, various exceptions are allowed to the underage drinking laws, including 26 states that allow drinking alcohol for religious purposes and 29 that allow consumption of alcohol by minors on private property, where alcohol isn’t sold, with parental consent.

The proposed law described above wouldn’t change either of these exceptions, which are currently on the books in Maryland, but it would change the punishment for adults who provide alcohol to underage subjects to whom they aren’t related.

We support this change

No state allows teens to drink under the supervision of an adult non-parent, including Maryland. This fact means elected officials who make those laws think it’s a good idea to restrict underage drinking when teens aren’t under the supervision of their own parents, although the severity of the sentence for “social hosting” convictions varies widely from state to state.

Furthermore, research tells us that if parents talk with their kids more about the dangers of alcohol, those kids will be less likely to abuse alcohol. The big question is, then, Will adding jail time and increasing the fines for adults who provide alcohol to teens to whom they’re not related strengthen the deterrent value of our laws and reduce underage drinking?

What do you think?

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Voxitatis congratulates the COVID Class of 2020

2020 is unique and, for high school graduates, different from anything they've seen. Proms, spring sports, & many graduation ceremonies are cancelled. Time for something new.

Vertical addition (m3.nbt.2) math practice

3rd grade, numbers and operations in base 10, 2, 3-digit vertical addition practice problem

Rubber ducks (m3.oa.1) math practice

3rd grade, operational and algebraic thinking, 1, rubber ducky modeling practice problem

Distance learning begins as Covid-19 thrives

What we learn during & from coronavirus, a challenging & imminent crisis, will provide insights into so many aspects of our lives.

Calif. h.s. choir sings with social distancing

Performances with the assistance of technology can spread inspiration across the globe even as the coronavirus spreads illness and disease.

Families plan to stay healthy during closures

Although schools are doing what they can to keep students learning and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak, that duty now shifts to parents.

Illinois temporarily closes all schools

IL schools will be closed on Tuesday, March 17, through at least March 30. Schools in 18 states are now closed due to coronavirus.

Coronavirus closures & cancellations

Many schools are closed and sports tournaments cancelled across America during what the president called a national emergency: coronavirus.

Coronavirus closes schools in Seattle

The coronavirus pandemic has caused colleges to cancel classes, and now Seattle Public Schools became the nation's first large district to cancel classes due to the virus.

Most detailed images ever of the sun

A new telescope at the National Solar Observatory snapped the most detailed pictures of the sun's surface we have ever seen.

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.