Chapter 9.38
SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY
AND PROHIBITION
AGAINST UNDERAGE DRINKING

Sections:

9.38.010    Title.

9.38.020    Legislative findings.

9.38.030    Intent and purpose.

9.38.040    Definitions.

9.38.050    Consumption of alcohol by minor prohibited in public place, place open to public, or place not open to public.

9.38.060    Hosting, permitting, allowing a gathering or event where minors consume alcoholic beverages prohibited.

9.38.070    Exemptions.

9.38.080    Prima facie evidence.

9.38.090    Separate violations for each incident.

9.38.100    Violations – Penalty.

9.38.110    Appeal of administrative penalties.

9.38.120    No mandatory duty of care.

9.38.010 Title.

This chapter shall be known as “social host liability and prohibition against underage drinking.” (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.020 Legislative findings.

A. Minors may obtain, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages at gatherings held at private residences or other private property, places or premises, including rented commercial premises which are under the control of a person who knows or should know of the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors; yet persons responsible for the occurrence of such gatherings may fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors at these gatherings.

B. Consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors who are under the legal age to consume alcohol in the state of California is harmful to them and poses an immediate threat to the general public health, safety and welfare, in that it increases the potential for alcohol abuse by minors that may lead to physical altercations and violent crimes including, but not limited to, sexual assaults, accidental injury, neighborhood vandalism, and excessive noise disturbance, all of which may require intervention by local law enforcement.

C. Law enforcement response to gatherings involving consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors diverts essential resources from other service calls in the community and, in some cases, requires extensive resources to manage such incidents. Such resource diversion places the community at increased risk. Law enforcement, fire, and emergency response services are not currently reimbursed for the response costs associated with responding to a call to a property or gathering where minors obtain, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages.

D. The prohibitions found in this chapter are reasonable and are expected to deter the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors by holding persons responsible for such social events responsible for such activity when they knew, or should have known, the illegal conduct and yet fail to stop and/or prevent it. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.030 Intent and purpose.

The purposes of this chapter are:

A. To protect the public health, safety and general welfare;

B. To enforce laws prohibiting the service to, and/or the facilitation of the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors; and

C. To reduce the cost of providing law enforcement, fire, and other emergency response services to premises where alcoholic beverages are served to and/or consumed by a minor, by holding the responsible person, social host and/or landowners responsible for the costs associated with providing such law enforcement and other emergency response services.

D. For these reasons, the city of Sonoma declares that gatherings on private property, places or premises where alcoholic beverages are served to, and/or consumed by, underage persons are a threat to public peace, health, safety, and general welfare, and constitute a public nuisance pursuant to SMC 1.12.010. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.040 Definitions.

The definitions contained in this section shall govern the construction of this chapter.

A. “Alcohol” as defined in Section 23003 of the California Business and Professions Code, as amended from time to time, shall apply to this chapter. As of the introduction of this chapter, Section 23003 defined alcohol to mean “ethyl alcohol, hydrated oxide of ethyl, or spirits of wine, from whatever source or by whatever process produced.”

B. “Alcoholic beverage(s)” as defined by Section 23004 of the California Business and Professions Code, as amended from time to time, shall apply to this chapter. As of the introduction of this chapter, Section 23004 defined alcoholic beverage to include “alcohol, spirits, liquor, wine, beer, and every liquid or solid containing alcohol, spirits, wine, or beer, and which contains one-half of one percent or more of alcohol by volume and that is fit for beverage purposes either alone or when diluted, mixed or combined with other substances.”

C. “Gathering” is a party or event where a group of two or more persons have assembled or are assembling for a social occasion or social activity.

D. “Family gathering” is a gathering on private property where each minor and/or juvenile present is supervised by his or her parent or legal guardian.

E. “Minor” is any person under the age of 21 years. A “minor” may also be a “juvenile” as defined in subsection (F) of this section.

F. “Juvenile” is any person under the age of 18 years.

G. “Property” means any place or premises including a residence, commercial or business premises, such as a hotel or motel room, an assembly hall or meeting room, privately owned vacant lot or agricultural land, whether owned, leased, rented or used with or without compensation where a gathering takes place.

H. “Response costs” are costs associated with the response by law enforcement, fire, or other emergency response providers to a gathering, including but not limited to:

1. Salaries and benefits of law enforcement, fire or other emergency response personnel for the amount of time spent responding to, remaining at, or otherwise dealing with a gathering, and the administrative cost associated with or attributed to such a response(s);

2. The cost of any medical treatment for any law enforcement, fire, or other emergency response personnel injured responding to, remaining at, or leaving the scene of a gathering;

3. The cost of repairing any city equipment or property damaged, and the cost of the use of any such equipment in, responding to, remaining at, or leaving the scene of a gathering;

4. Any other allowable costs related to enforcement of SMC 9.38.050 and 9.38.060.

I. “Responsible person” means a person or persons with a right of possession in the property who is aware of the gathering and knew, or should have known, of the consumption of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by a minor or juvenile at the gathering, but need not be present at such a gathering which results in the imposition of response costs pursuant to this chapter. Responsible persons may include, but are not limited to:

1. An owner of the property.

2. A tenant or lessee of the property.

3. The landlord or property manager responsible for the property.

4. The person(s) in charge of the property.

5. The person(s) who organizes, supervises, officiates, conducts, or controls the gathering or any other person(s) accepting responsibility for such a gathering.

6. The parent(s) and/or guardian(s) of a juvenile, if the juvenile is a responsible person or social host for a gathering. In such case, the parent(s) and/or guardian(s) of the juvenile shall be jointly and severally liable for the response costs incurred pursuant to this chapter.

J. “Social host” is a person who knowingly hosts, permits, or allows a gathering to take place. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.050 Consumption of alcohol by minor prohibited in public place, place open to public, or place not open to public.

Except as permitted by federal or state law, it is unlawful for any minor to consume, or to have consumed, an alcoholic beverage in any place, public or private, subject to the exemptions stated in SMC 9.38.070. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.060 Hosting, permitting, allowing a gathering or event where minors consume alcoholic beverages prohibited.

A. It is unlawful for any responsible person or social host to knowingly host, permit or allow a gathering to take place where one or more minors consumes one or more alcoholic beverages, or any portion thereof, if the responsible person or social host knew or should have known that a minor is consuming, or has consumed, an alcoholic beverage.

B. Any social host shall take all reasonable steps to prevent the consumption of alcoholic beverages by any minor at a gathering. Reasonable steps include, but are not limited to:

1. Controlling access to alcoholic beverages;

2. Controlling the quantity of alcoholic beverages at a gathering;

3. Verifying the age of persons attending a gathering by inspecting drivers’ licenses or other government-issued identification cards; and

4. Supervising the activities of minors at a gathering.

C. A social host or responsible person shall not be in violation of this section under the circumstances listed below as long as the request or action stated therein is made before any other person makes a complaint about a gathering:

1. The social host or responsible person seeks assistance for any medical emergency occurring at the property;

2. The social host or responsible person requests assistance from law enforcement to remove any person who refuses to abide by the social host or responsible person’s performance of duties imposed by this chapter;

3. The social host or responsible person terminates a gathering because the social host or responsible person has been unable to prevent minors from consuming alcoholic beverages despite having taken all reasonable steps to do so. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.070 Exemptions.

This chapter shall not apply to conduct involving the use of alcoholic beverages under the following circumstances:

A. Exclusively between a minor and his/her parent or legal guardian, as permitted by Article I, Section 4 of the California Constitution; or

B. Family gatherings as defined in SMC 9.38.040. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.080 Prima facie evidence.

Whenever a responsible person and/or social host having control of the property is present at the property at the time that a minor obtains, possesses, or consumes any alcoholic beverage, it shall be prima facie evidence that the social host or responsible person, regardless of age, knew or reasonably should have known that the minor obtained, possessed, or consumed an alcoholic beverage at the gathering. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.090 Separate violations for each incident.

Each incident in violation of SMC 9.38.050 and 9.38.060 shall constitute a separate offense. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.100 Violations – Penalty.

A. Violations of this chapter may be prosecuted as misdemeanors. At the discretion of the charging officer, city prosecutor, or city attorney, violations of this chapter may also be charged as infractions, a civil action, and/or an administrative notice as outlined in SMC 1.12.010 that may include, but is not limited to, recovery of response costs; except that a violation of SMC 9.38.060(A) by a responsible party shall not be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

B. Nothing in this chapter in any way limits any other remedy that may be available to the city, or any other penalty that may be imposed by the city, for violations of this chapter. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.110 Appeal of administrative penalties.

Any person charged with an administrative violation of this chapter pursuant to SMC 1.30.110 who receives notice of imposition of response costs as set forth in SMC 9.38.040 may appeal the imposition of these costs pursuant to SMC 1.30.200. Failure to appeal shall constitute a waiver of any claims regarding the imposition or collection of these costs and shall constitute a failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).

9.38.120 No mandatory duty of care.

This chapter is not intended to impose, and shall not be construed or given effect in a manner that imposes, upon the city, or any officer, employee, agent or representative of the city, a mandatory duty of care toward persons or property within or without the city limits, so as to provide a basis of civil liability for damages, except as may otherwise be imposed by law. (Ord. 13-2009 § 1, 2009).