Truckee law will fine adults who condone underage drinking, drugs
July 16, 2015
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Responding to concerns over a reported rise in alcohol and drug use among minors, a new Truckee law will target apparent condoning adults who facilitate or ignore such behavior.
The ordinance Truckee Town Council OK'd in May holds "social hosts" responsible for hosting or providing a venue for gatherings where minors are possessing or consuming alcohol, marijuana or controlled substances.
"Social host" refers to a person who allows underage drinking or drug use on property that he/she controls.
The ordinance underwent a revision in its verbiage before adoption, said town council member Patrick Flora.
Originally, Flora explained there was concern over how broad the law's language was, and what specific ways parents and guardians could potentially be liable.
"I tend to look at any decision we make in the broader terms of how it impacts the community, better or not," Flora said. "In this case, reservations aside, it made sense to give (police officers) another tool in their toolbox and how they go about enforcing this particular ordinance."
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While the ordinance makes it clear that a person can be held liable for a party or gathering where minors are in possession of controlled substances regardless of whether they knew or intended them to — and did nothing to prevent it — Truckee Police Department Det. Sara Rodriguez said officers will still perform a thorough investigation of the situation before any citation is issued.
"On a strict interpretation, essentially the intent of the ordinance is placing more parental accountability with the children at their residence," Rodriguez said.
In other words, while the law is aimed at educating teens and parents, she said it should also remind them there are unforeseen consequences beyond the obvious dangers underage drinking brings.
Rodriguez noted the 2014 Tahoe Truckee Unified School District's Healthy Kids survey, which revealed underage drug and alcohol use to be 8 percent to 13 percent higher than the state average.
"I find that statistic alarming for a small community to be in double digits among the state average," she said.
Further, 70 percent of minors investigated on suspicion of driving under the influence by the three police departments operating in Nevada County — Truckee, Nevada City and Grass Valley — were within Truckee's town limits in 2014, Rodriguez said.
While those found breaking the law would not be subject to criminal prosecution or arrest, each violation comes with an escalating citation fee.
A first offense will cost violators $250, with a second costing $500 and a third costing $1,000.
"This ordinance is directed to hopefully give some pause to an adult who is considering hosting an event with alcohol or drugs for minors," Flora said. "The adults who willfully choose to engage in this type of activity, whatever the case — they think it's more appropriate or they don't think it's a big deal."
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