New Chandler underage-drinking law takes effect in July
Property owners or renters in Chandler could be held liable for underage drinking that takes place in their residences under a new city ordinance that will take effect July 11.
The law, commonly referred to as a “social host” ordinance, would impose civil fines on a homeowner or anyone else in control of a property where people under the legal drinking age of 21 consume alcohol at a party or “gathering.”
The law was formally adopted by the Chandler City Council at its June 11 meeting, and becomes effective 30 days after that council vote.
Similar laws have been adopted in Tempe, Buckeye, Flagstaff, Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy and Pima County. Nationally, about 150 such ordinances have been adopted, according to the Arizona office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The Chandler ordinance will make it a violation for a “responsible person to provide a location for, or to permit, authorize, sponsor or allow a minor party/gathering at private property under the responsible person’s ownership, possession or control.”
In addition to the owner, a property’s tenant also could be held responsible.
A first offense could result in a maximum $250 fine, but that could be waived if a substance-abuse program is completed. A second offense within 18 months could result in a maximum $1,000 fine. That could increase to a maximum of $1,500 for a third offense within that 18-month period. Absentee owners whose renter holds such a gathering would receive an initial warning for a first offense occurring at their property, but a second offense would activate the first level of fines.
Chandler police Cmdr. Matt Christensen told the city councilthat police already can cite youths for underage drinking and adults who purchase alcohol for minors under existing laws. However, the new ordinance will provide an additional tool for police by placing more responsibility on property owners.
“We’re looking at this as an educational tool,” he said. “And as such, typically we get called to parties. We don’t get called when somebody’s sitting down having a a beer with their child. We get called to parties when there’s 300 kids and 900 cars in the street, that’s what we’re looking at, the large, out-of-control gatherings for juveniles.”
The Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse, a program operated under ICAN, which provides services to neighborhoods and youths in Chandler, had advocated for the ordinance. Melissa Jimro, chief programs officer for ICAN, told the council that a 2014 survey conducted for the coalition that polled Chandler residents found 90 percent support for such an ordinance.
“We know, as the coalition, that one approach is not going to solve this problem of underage drinking,” she said, adding that ongoing education and prevention efforts also are needed.
Christensen said though police will focus on large parties where underage drinking occurs, even just two underage drinkers could be considered a gathering under the ordinance.