With spring break, prom and graduation just around the corner, those hosting celebrations may want to be aware of the State of Mississippi's relatively new "Social Hosting," law.
Signed into effect by former Gov. Haley Barbour and put into law effective July 1, 2011, the law provides for penalties for anyone who allows a party to take place, or continue, where a minor was allowed to possess or consume alcohol.
Stone County had its first test of the law when Sgt. Kevin Sharpe of the Stone County Sheriff Department arrested 49-year-old Frances Annette Taylor last August 25.
Sharpe had responded to a call of trucks racing up and down Cable Bridge Road and minors drinking.
Upon arrival at the scene,
Sharpe found several teenagers drinking and, after questioning, placed Taylor and another adult female under arrest.
Taylor was found guilty last month and ordered to pay $496.75 in fines and court costs.
The law says an adult who, "willfully, knowingly and unlawfully," allows a party to take place or continue at a private residence or private premises where a minor obtained, possessed or consumed alcohol is to be charged under the law.
"Parents should be concerned with their children's GPA (grade point average) and not their BAC (blood alcohol content)," said SCSD DUI Enforcement officer Lt. Lewis Husband.
Sheriff Mike Farmer has made it clear the law will be enforced in Stone County.
"Ever since I was elected we've had a zero-tolerance policy toward drugs and we have a zero-tolerance policy toward underage drinking," he said. "If you want to have a party and let minors consume alcohol, you should know you're likely to receive a visit from my deputies and pay a visit to the county jail."
Sharpe once again invoked the statute last month after a local 20-year-old totaled his truck after attending a party.
George Dylan Hebert of Wiggins crashed his vehicle on King Bee Road Feb. 2 and told Sharpe he had been drinking at a party on property owned by 29-year-old Eddie Salinas.
Hebert had refused treatment at the scene until his mother arrived and talked him into going to the hospital.
There, a blood test showed his blood alcohol level to be .149, more than seven times over the legal limit for minors.
When Salinas was later arrested on contempt of court and bad check warrants, Sharpe charged him under the "Social Hosting,' statute.
Sharpe said if a minor is found to be driving under the influence of alcohol, an investigation will take place to determine where the alcohol was obtained.
"With roughly 25 percent of our DUIs being underage, they had to have been drinking somewhere," he said. "We are going to follow up and do everything within our power to find out just where that was."
The City of Wiggins had a problem with underage drinking at a graduation party last year and Wiggins Police Department Chief Matt Barnett, like Farmer, said his department would have no tolerance for adults providing alcohol to minors.
"We will enforce the law to its fullest," he said. "Responsible drinking by adults is one thing but if we find you have allowed minors to drink you can expect to be arrested and charged."