As parent-hosted parties for minors have become more popular in recent years, Snoqualmie police are having to educate and warn people about the dangers of serving alcohol to minors.
At such parties, Snoqualmie Police Chief Steve McCulley said, parents may be thinking that kids are going to be drinking underage anyway, so it’s better to provide a safe space for them to do it. Those good intentions are breaking very important laws.
McCulley has had to deal with these parties and wants to warn parents against hosting them.
“It’s fraught with liability issues. You are making decisions for other parents whose kids haven’t told them what they’re doing. So it’s just a huge liability.” McCulley said. “It’s particularly concerning that they think this is OK.”
McCulley said that police are not always treated professionally by parents and sometimes need a warrant to gain entry to the house. However, If there is a medical concern, police can break the door down and go in, but they haven’t had to do that in the Snoqualmie community.
“We have gone to the extent of getting a warrant to gain entry if that’s what it takes to get people to understand this is a serious problem and parents should not be doing this for various reasons,” McCulley said.
When parents and their kids are together, there is an assumed responsibility for the parents to be monitoring their kids.
According to McCulley, at these parties some parents will buy the alcohol, set it all up, then they will typically go up to their bedrooms and let the kids have their time.
“To me, that’s just crazy. It sends the wrong signal in so many ways,” McCulley said. “Have you even considered the liability you’ve brought on to yourself, the homeowner’s policy, and being sued by parents of these other children, who did not give you permission to do this?”
Snoqualmie police are now looking to get an ordinance passed that would help act as a deterrent for parents hosting these parties. Mercer Island was the first city in the state that adopted an underage gathering ordinance and now Snoqualmie wants the same ordinance in place.
“We are pursuing the same ordinance in Snoqualmie and North Bend which would allow us to cite the parent or the adult hosting the teen drinking party with a fine of $250 or more for each person hosting,” McCulley said. “Our hope is this will serve as a deterrent and we won’t have to issue an infraction, but we will because this is a serious situation and I think parents, wherever they got the idea that ‘I’m gonna be the cool parent’ that’s just not the way to go.”
The ordinance that the police are seeking will affect the person who would have been charged for a misdemeanor for providing alcohol to minors. It’s a lesser offense, so the amount of evidence needed is less, as well.
“If we can’t prove that they actually provided the alcohol, but if they provided the residence and alcohol was there, we can also charge them, which will be $250 to $500 for the violation of the ordinance of hosting the party itself,” McCulley said.
Being able to charge not just for furnishing alcohol to minors but for hosting as well should act as a strong deterrent.
Education and preventive steps are being taken by the police as well. Press releases, mock fatality crash and drunk driving crash demonstrations are part of the department’s outreach to help educate people on the consequences and maybe prevent people from getting hurt after one of these parties.
Summer is the time of year that people have high hopes for, McCulley said, so “Don’t ruin it, don’t kill somebody, don’t get arrested.”
According to the law
The Crime: RCW 66.44.270 states that it’s illegal for anyone to sell, give, or supply liquor to anyone under the age of 21, or permit them to consume liquor on his or her premises. A violation of this law is a gross misdemeanor.
The Punishment: RCW 9A.20.010 states misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors are subject to a maximum fine of $1,000, and a maximum jail sentence of 90 days.