For Immediate ReleaseJanuary 29, 2016
County law and health officials want to extend language in 2006 local law
San Rafael, CA – A Marin County ordinance designed to deter underage drinking is in the process of an update to include controlled substances and have the restorative justice system involved in hearing procedures for juvenile offenders.
The social host ordinance holds adults responsible for underage alcohol use in their households whether or not the adults are present. The ordinance is designed to confront and mitigate the prevalent problem of underage drinking and loud or unruly gatherings at private residences or rented facilities. It allows law enforcement officials to issue citations for civil fines and fees against people responsible for gatherings at which alcohol is served to, consumed by, or in the possession of minors. Adults face a civil fine of $750, imposition of all of the costs of law enforcement’s response to the incident and potential litigation from the families of people injured in the incident. Fines increase with additional violations.
The ordinance is part of many countywide efforts to address substance misuse and abuse. Marin has been ranked the healthiest county in California for the past six years but continues to fare poorly in alcohol and drug related measures. Drinking rates for both youth and adults are alarmingly high.
To date, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office has issued 48 citations for violations in unincorporated Marin during the ordinance’s first nine years. Violators paid fines, completed community service hours and participated in alcohol-related education.
The ordinance amendments would add controlled substances to the existing prohibition of alcohol. Assistant County Counsel Jack Govi said the addition is necessary as a tool to address the alarming increase in parties at which young people gather to exchange and ingest prescription pills. A grassroots coalition called RxSafe Marin, which includes participation from several County departments, is working to reduce the number of prescriptions entering the community and promote safe storage and disposal of unused and unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs, especially narcotics such as Oxycodone and Norco.
Govi said the County wants to include an approved restorative justice program as mandatory community service to juvenile violators.
“A restorative justice program will ensure that the underage violator truly learns from the experience as opposed to their parents simply paying a fine,” Govi said.
For example, the YMCA Marin County Youth Court is a restorative justice program that has a proven track record on recidivism and education. All participants in Youth Court, except the judicial officer presiding over the court and program staff, are under age 18. Eligible young offenders between ages 10 and 17 have cases heard in a real courtroom with peers serving as prosecuting and defense attorneys, court clerks, bailiffs and jurors. A jury, comprised of young people up to age 24, determines the sentences.
“RxSafe Marin believes that restorative justice will promote youth leadership, get young people involved in creating positive change and will make them more aware of the consequences,” said Kristen Law, a Department Analyst with Marin HHS and co-chair of RxSafe Marin’s Community-Based Prevention Action Team.
In addition to the County ordinance that covers unincorporated areas, each town and city in Marin has adopted a similar social host ordinance over the past 11 years. Marin HHS, the Marin County Office of Education, school districts and community coalitions have ramped up efforts to publicize the ordinances and make parents aware of the consequences of underage alcohol consumption and to promote healthy and safe ways of having fun.
Those wishing to comment on the social host accountability ordinance amendments are encouraged to email Law at firstname.lastname@example.org and attend the February 9 merit hearing.
Learn more about Marin HHS’ substance use prevention programs online.
David ZaltsmanDeputy County CounselOffice of the County Counsel
Marin County Civic Center3501 Civic Center DriveSan Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-6127Email: David Zaltsmanwww.marincounty.org/cl