State News

Bill seeks to stop adults from allowing underage drinking in their homes

If passed, adults who allow teens to drink in their homes could face jail time and hefty penalties.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

Adults who host underage drinking gatherings in their homes could face fines and jail time as part of a new proposal presented by two state legislators Tuesday.

The proposed bill, spearheaded by state Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, and state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, aims to address binge drinking and drunk driving, issues the lawmakers believe are being exacerbated by a cultural acceptance of underage drinking.

Current state law prohibits people who are old enough to drink from allowing people who are underage to consume alcohol in or on premises owned or controlled by a person who is of legal drinking age.

In the past, the term “premises” has been interpreted to only include licensed establishments that possess alcohol, such as bars or liquor stores.

Jacque and Wanggaard believe “premises” should also include the homes and properties of adults.

“The whole idea that underage drinking is OK or safe in certain settings sends the wrong message,” Jacque told the Associated Press.

As part of the new bill, adults could face penalties for either allowing teens to consume alcohol on their property or failing to intervene in underage drinking when they know it is occurring.

Adults who break the law would be fined $500 for a first offense. Repeat offenders could pay up to $10,000 in penalties and serve a maximum of nine months in prison.

According to a 2016 report from the state Department of Health Services, nearly one third of Wisconsin youth aged 12 to 20 consume alcohol. Additionally, 20 percent of youth report drinking five or more drinks in one sitting.

Both statistics are somewhat higher than the national averages.

An identical bill passed a Wisconsin Assembly committee in 2013 with bipartisan support, but did not make it to the floor after municipalities expressed concerns over local jurisdiction. Jacque believes this is no longer an issue with the new bill.

“Folks are on board now who before were saying “What’s the need?’” Jacque told the Associated Press. “For the first time, we have a united front.” 

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