Parents whose kids host underage drinking parties could face new fines in Napa County, whether the parents know what their children are doing or not.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday to consider changes to the county’s Minor Alcohol Offenses Ordinance, which holds parents and other adults in unincorporated areas of the county responsible for hosting underage drinking in their home.
Under the proposed county ordinance, parents or other adult guardians could face fines of $500 for the first offense, $750 for the second offense and $1,000 for the third offense.
The proposed ordinance would replace the current law, adopted in 1996, which charges adults with a misdemeanor.
“The current ordinance is a criminal ordinance, and the proposed ordinance is a civil ordinance” said Shirin Vakharia, a prevention supervisor for the county’s Early Intervention and Youth Treatment Program.
Similar to the current ordinance, the proposal would hold parents responsible even if they are unaware that their kids are drinking.
“The responsible party is the host of the event,” said Vakharia. “... That is consistent with state law that provides for parents to be responsible for any financial obligations of their children, regardless of whether or not they know about their children’s actions.”
Each of Napa County’s towns have adopted similar ordinances, although the provisions and penalties vary.
The proposed changes follow the recent release of the California Healthy Kids Survey, which shows Napa County’s underage drinking rate to be alarmingly high.
According to the survey, 30 percent of Napa County 9th- and 11th graders say they get alcohol at parties or events outside school.
Half of Napa County 11th graders say it is “very easy” and 26 percent say it is “fairly easy” to get alcohol.
Meanwhile, 29 percent of Napa’s 11th graders report “binge drinking” within the past month. Almost half of all Napa County 11th graders have “binged” (defined as being drunk or sick after drinking). The state average is only 46 percent.
“Napa tends to come out a little higher on teen binge drinking,” Vakharia said, adding, “Our local efforts have really been that any amount of underage drinking, especially binge drinking, is unacceptable.”
A separate component of the proposed ordinance would address loud and unruly parties, regardless of whether underage drinking is allowed to occur.
Under the proposal, adults would face a civil fine for multiple public nuisance complaints during a six-month period.
The public is invited to comment on the ordinance at a hearing Tuesday,
11 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, 1195 Third St. in Napa. This will be the public’s only opportunity to do so.