L-R: Neuhaus, Hoovler, Sheriff Carl DuBois and County Legislature Chairman Steven Brescia
GOSHEN – In an effort to keep youths safe during the current prom season, Orange County officials Monday called attention to the county’s new social host law.
Essentially, the law was put in place to dissuade underage drinking at house parties. The adults responsible for the minors at the site where underage drinking has occurred would be charged with a violation.
Since the incident involving the late Justin Speights on New Year’s Day when he was stabbed to death as he attempted to break up a fight at a house party, the county realized the serious consequences those house parties can have and took action.
The law carries different penalties for those knowing drinking is happening and those providing the alcohol to the underage people.
District Attorney David Hoovler said the main focus of the law is not about enforcement.
“Each time you offend, it has elevating penalties,” Hoovler said. “The first time is a violation. The second time would be a misdemeanor, but the whole idea behind the law is prevention and education, not being punitive. Our goal here is, basically, to prevent and educate people to the dangers of underage drinking and promote public safety.”
In addition to working with schools to provide notifications around event nights, like proms and dances, County Executive Steven Neuhaus said the county will also be utilizing other avenues with the intended goal being the prevention of another young person’s death.
“One of the things we have is a hand out that is going to go to many of the households throughout the county, anybody that we can get a word out to,” Neuhaus said. “We also have what is called a Code Red, or a reverse 911, where we leave a message or, at least, call those households and say, ‘Look, the law of the land is this Social Host Law. Parents that host, can lose the most.”
The county’s Social Host Law has been in effect since March 17 and had recently been enforced for the first time on April 3 stemming from an incident occurring on April 1. Capt. Brendan Casey of the New York State Police said the names of the parents involved have been protected due to their cooperation in the matter and were issued a violation, so no criminal offense was committed.
County officials urge parents, especially ones who believe they are protecting their children by providing them supervision and asylum for their underage drinking, not to provide a forum for them to drink this prom season.