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OC Parents Wary Of Proposed Underage Drinking Fines

LAGUNA BEACH ( — The Laguna Beach City Council will move forward on a proposed "Social Host" ordinance to penalize adults who serve alcohol to minors.

Both supporters and opponents crowded a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday night as lawmakers considered a new law that would levy fines for parents and other adults for hosting any event that allows minors access to alcohol.

The proposed ordinance - which has been endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and the local PTA - would "prohibit persons from hosting an event on property under their control where underage persons are present and alcoholic beverages are being served or consumed by an underage person."

While the fine amounts have not been set, other cities have issued fines from between $750 and $3,000. The City Council has signaled it likely seek a $1,000 fine with a waiver of the fine for a first offense if the person attends a class.

The measure would allow for exceptions in the case of any consumption of an alcoholic beverage "that occurs exclusively between an underage person and his or her parent and/or legal guardian."

But critics argue that teens are much safer while drinking under the supervision of parents rather than forcing them to drink in cars and parks and potentially creating additional safety risks.

"It's my right as a parent to protect and raise my child the way I want," said one dad.

Other Southland cities including Irvine, Laguna Hills and Mission Viejo already have similar "Social Host" ordinances.

No final decision has been made on the ordinance. The City Council will reconsider the measure again in January.

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