Parents could face fines, jail time for allowing underage drinking

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s that time of the year for graduation and prom parties, but soon parents may have another reason to think twice before allowing alcohol to be served to underage guests.

Hamburg Police Captain Greg Wickett said, “Adults have to realize that the law is the law and the drinking age is 21.”

Captain Wickett joined Legislator Lynne Dixon and representatives from the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse to announce details of a new social host law on Tuesday. The law passed last week in the Erie County Legislature and will give police more authority to hold parents accountable.

Police would only have to prove that a property owner knew about underage drinking, even if they weren’t present at the time the underage drinking was taking place.

Captain Wickett explained, “We don’t have to prove who supplied the alcohol, which has been a problem in the past. Police show up and no one knows how the alcohol got there, so it’s difficult to do anything.”

Under the new law, the first offense comes with a $250 fine, the second offense is $500, and after that, it becomes a misdemeanor with either a fine of $1,000 or up to a year in jail.

Legislator Dixon explained, “With graduation and prom here, there are a lot of parties that go on, so parents have to know that it’s not okay to serve alcohol to minors that are not your children in your home.”

Although the punishment may not deter everyone, supporters hope it will draw attention to underage parties before anything bad happens.

“Not only is it a moral issue, it’s a legal issue and you cannot let that happen knowingly at your residence,” said Captain Wickett.

There will be a public hearing on the law, but there’s no date just yet. The law then goes to the Erie County Executive’s office for final approval, which it is expected to get.

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office has a local anonymous underage drinking tipline. The number is 1-800-851-1932.

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