Those hosting a party where underage drinking or cannabis use occurs in Turlock could soon face a steep fine as the City Council was presented with a draft version of a new social host ordinance.
The current social host liability ordinance does not include an administrative citation (fine). While the City is still working on the details of the new ordinance, fines could be as high as $1,000 for the “responsible person” for the first violation of the social host law and then increasing for each additional violation.
In the draft ordinance, the “responsible person” means any person with an ownership interest or right of possession in residence, such as a renter or lessee. If the responsible person is a minor, the ordinance makes clear that the minor’s parents or guardians will be jointly liable for any penalties — even if they had no knowledge of the party or serving of alcohol and/or cannabis to underage persons.
Turlock Police Chief Jason Hedden presented the draft version of the new social host ordinance to the City Council at their Jan. 24 meeting.
Chief Hedden told the Council about a resident who was upset about the number of parties near his house that included underaged drinking. The Chief said he looked into the situation and found that Turlock’s social host ordinances could be improved to deter residents from allowing underage drinking or cannabis use at parties at their residences.
“Studies has shown that strong social host ordinances have reduced the number of parties that serve alcohol beverages and cannabis to underage persons,” said Hedden.
While increasing the fine for party hosts who serve underage persons alcohol is important, Hedden said the City also needs to add cannabis to the ordinance since recreational cannabis use has become legal in the state for those over the age of 21.
“We’re looking to put some teeth into this and there will be a public information campaign. We want people to know that Turlock is serious about this and we don’t tolerate serving underage minors who might get into a car,” said Hedden.
City Attorney George Petrulakis said that he has been doing research on updating many of the City’s ordinances.
“We have a typical problem in the municipal code in which penalties, enforcement and revenues jump all around based on whose drafting it,” he said.
Over the past few years, Turlock has updated or created a number of new ordinances including ones addressing camping in public areas, pedicabs and illegal fireworks.