CLINTON — Clinton County is considering an ordinance much like one in Scott County that would punish hosts of underage drinking parties.

The “social host” ordinance proposed by the Clinton County Board of Supervisors would cover the entire county, including communities that don’t have an ordinance of their own. That includes Clinton, Camanche, DeWitt and other smaller towns.

The proposal is promoted by the Area Substance Abuse Council based in Clinton. Under the proposal, property owners could be charged if they were aware of a gathering of underage drinkers, whether they were present or not.

Candace Seitz of the Area Substance Abuse Council said the idea is to discourage underage drinking on private property and covers situations where the owner or “host” is aware of the gathering.

Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf said the ordinance is a preventative effort that allows property owners to work with law enforcement to allow officers to enter property if they hear about a drinking party. He says if a person allows law enforcement officers to check their property, the property owner would not be held responsible.

Wolf said various groups are working together to address underage drinking and show teens that drinking is “not a rite of passage; this isn’t something we’re condoning.”

A violation would be a

misdemeanor with a fine from $65 to $625, with the possibility of 30 days in jail.

The board will consider a first reading of the ordinance at its Jan. 21 meeting. It requires three approvals for passage.

Scott County passed a similar ordinance two years ago. Scott County Attorney Mike Walton said the ordinance “fills a gap” in state law that makes it illegal to sell, give and supply alcohol to a minor.

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“If you have a situation where you couldn’t prove that an adult is selling, giving or supplying to a minor, but is allowing it to occur on his property, state law doesn’t really cover that,” Walton said.

The trend of passing local “social hosting” laws began in West Des Moines, Walton said. His office has prosecuted more than 100 cases in recent years.

The law became an issue locally after several North Scott High School students were in a car crash in September 2009, severely injuring one of them, after they were drinking in Clinton County.

The father of one of the students was accused of purchasing the alcohol for them, and he was prosecuted on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

“The idea isn’t to rush out and arrest everyone who has someone underage drinking in the basement,” Walton said. “This law is for problem cases that occur every once in a while, where this is going on continuously.”

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