Rockville Centre trustees unanimously approved an amendment to the village’s social host law that lowers the age of responsibility from 18 to 16.
The law was originally passed by the village in 2007, after Nassau County passed its Social Host Law, which made it a misdemeanor for homeowners — or those in charge of a home at the time of an incident — to allow minors to consume alcohol. The village’s law is the same as the county’s, except that the charge is an ordinance violation rather than a misdemeanor — an offense that comes with little criminal liability, but a fine of up to $750.
“The cops looked at [the county law] and said, ‘We understand this is a serious problem, but a lot of times you’re dealing with young adults in these situations, and we don’t want to arrest them for misdemeanors. We’d rather have a different way to deal with this,’” said Village Attorney A. Thomas Levin.
Because the county law still applies to the village, it gives Rockville Centre police officers an option in how they can cite the violations, Levin said. Officers can either cite people for violating the village code, or arrest them for violating the county law, depending on how they judge the situation.
“Our concern is that there are young people under the age of 18 who are left alone in homes, and then these types of parties take place,” said Rockville Centre Mayor Mary Bossart.
The reason for the change to the village law is that officers have come to realize that at many of the parties in which they find under age drinking taking place, there aren’t any adults.
“They’re having situations where they’re finding minors are hosting these parties,” said Levin. “The law, as it was written originally, only applied to where adults were hosting the parties, so it didn’t reach everywhere they wanted to reach.”
Rockville Centre Police Commissioner Charles Gennario saw the changes to the law as positive. Cracking down on underage drinking is something that Gennario says his department has been taking very seriously.
“The changes in the Social Host Law will assist us in enforcing the laws against underage drinking,” Gennario said in an e-mail. “Currently we have limited recourse to get the under-18 year old hosts into the courts. It will be another tool my officers have at their disposal to combat underage drinking.”
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