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Social Host Ordinances hold adults responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease, or otherwise control. A law enforcement officer does not need to witness the adult handing alcohol to a minor to issue a citation.

Goals of Social Host:

Serves as a deterrent to hosting



Gives another tool to law enforcement to hold responsible parties accountable 


Recovers costs associated with use of law enforcement/EMS


Sends a clear message that providing a venue for underage drinking is not acceptable

Alcohol remains the most widely abused substance among young people in Kentucky, costing its citizens $648.2 million in 2013.

-Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE)

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Social Host Q&A:


What if I just don’t know what my kid is doing with his/her friends at my house?


Social Host Ordinances have varying thresholds for hosts’ knowledge or actions regarding an underage drinking party on property they control. The categories are ranked by the level of evidence required, from most demanding to least demanding:

˗ Overt Act: the host must have actual knowledge of specific aspects of the party, and must commit an act that contributes to its occurrence.

˗ Knowledge: the host must have actual knowledge of specific aspects of the party; no action is required.

˗ Recklessness: the host may not have acted with actual knowledge of the party, but must act with intentional disregard for the probable consequences of his or her actions.

˗ Criminal Negligence: the host fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that unlawful circumstances associated with the party exist.

˗ Negligence: the host knew or should have known of the event's occurrence ("constructive knowledge").

˗ Prevention Action Negates Violation: some ordinances specify if a host takes reasonable action to prevent underage drinking from occurring at a party it could constitute an affirmative defense.

Alcohol Policy Information System, 2018


What if a person 18-20 years old hosts a party?


Some ordinances allow individuals under-21, acting as a social host with no parents or guardians present, to be held accountable.


Can’t parents teach their teens how to drink responsibly by giving them small amounts, under supervision, before they reach 21?


Multiple studies in the U.S. and other countries suggest allowing teens to drink at home, either with parents or supervised by parents, increases the odds that a teen will binge drink outside of the home.

McMorris et al 2011. J Stud Alcohol Drugs, 72(3), 418-28


Isn’t it safer for parents to just take away the keys and allow youth to drink at home?


There is no way to guarantee a safe environment when alcohol is involved. Taking the keys does not take away the risks.

-Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become an alcoholic as an adult than those who begin at 21. 



Don’t we already have laws on the books to address this?


There are several relevant state statutes, but they have limitations: 

˗ Unlawful Transaction with a Minor in the Third Degree (KRS 530.070): A person who “knowingly sells, gives, purchases, or procures any alcoholic or malt beverage in any form to or for a minor” can be charged under this statute, which is a Class A Misdemeanor. Parents or guardians of that minor are specifically exempted from this statute—so, someone can be charged with unlawful transaction if they give alcohol to someone else’s child, but not for giving it to their own child.

WEAKNESS – you have to prove that a “transaction” took place. If someone buys alcohol, puts it in the basement fridge, walks away and washes their hands of the matter, it is difficult to charge them with unlawful transaction so long as they can deny knowledge that minors would consume it.

˗ Minors Not to Possess or Purchase Liquor (KRS 244.085): Holds minors responsible for possessing or purchasing alcohol. It also states: “No person shall aid or assist any person under 21 years of age in purchasing or having delivered or served to him or her any alcoholic beverages”—for adults, failure to abide by this statute is a Violation, punishable by a fine only, and there is no exception for the parents of the minor.

WEAKNESS -- It is necessary to prove someone “aided or assisted” the minor in purchasing alcohol or having it delivered or served to him. The issue is not just someone can deny knowing that a minor was drinking. Even if they knew it was happening and did nothing, you must also establish their failure to act meaning they “aided or assisted” the minor in having alcohol served to them.  

-Endangering the Welfare of a Minor (KRS 530.060): Kentucky’s law states only a “parent, guardian or other person legally charged with the care or custody of a minor” can be charged.

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