Party hosts may want to think twice when serving alcohol to underage drinkers as a result of new legislation.
Under AB 2486, if a person over 21 years of age provides alcohol to someone underage and an alcohol-related injury or death occurs, the person who provided the alcohol can be sued.
AB 2486, authored by Rep. Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), was signed into law on Aug. 18. Though providing alcohol to under-21-year-olds was already illegal in California, providers were previously protected from civil suit if their actions resulted in injury or death.
“Governor Schwarzenegger was pleased to sign AB2486 because parents and adults have a responsibility to protect children and underage youth from alcohol,” said the Governor’s Deputy Press Secretary Matt Connelly in a written statement. “Adults that knowingly provide alcohol to a minor place both the minor and the larger community at risk.”
The push to get the bill passed was led by a couple from Redding, whose daughter died from alcohol poisoning after drinking at a friend’s house. Groups that support the legislation include Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Consumer Federation of California.
The bill passed in the senate and assembly with nearly unanimous support, with only one “no” vote from Rep. Chris Norby (R-Fullerton). Norby, and others who don’t support the bill, argued that the bill takes the blame away from underage adults, who should be responsible for their own actions.
According to the Safe Party Initiative, alcohol is the most commonly used substance at UC Davis. Of-age students who provide alcohol to their friends could be held responsible for any negative consequences.
“I would never buy alcohol for minors,” said Kristen Jones, a 21 year-old American Studies major at UCD. “Those who are able to purchase alcohol have a responsibility to make safe decisions about who they share it with.
“That said, I also believe underage drinkers above a reasonable age should be held accountable for reckless behavior. AB 2486 alleviates pressure for teens while depriving them of a learning opportunity at a critical moment in their development. A better solution may be a lower drinking age paired with cultural shifts that support responsible drinking.”
Though AB 2486 allots more responsibility to alcohol providers, providers are not automatically faced with a lawsuit if their actions cause an alcohol-related injury or death. It is up to the families of the minors to press charges.
“I would be delighted if there is never one lawsuit brought pursuant to this statute,” Feuer said in a press release. “This bill is to save lives.”
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, over 10 percent of drunk driving fatalities are caused by teenage drinking and driving.
SARAH HANSEL can be reached at email@example.com.