Iowa has a statewide Social Host Law, which aims to reduce and prevent underage drinking. Cities and counties can go one step further and create a Social Host Ordinance that better protects and addresses local concerns of the community.
Contact our team if you would like help to pass such an ordinance in your community.

Social Host Law

A Social Host is anyone (adult or juvenile) who knowingly allows an underage person to illegally consume alcohol on their property.
Whether or not the property owner/controller supplied the alcohol to minors, that property owner can be held responsible for allowing an underage drinking party.
This law includes more people in the responsibility to stop underage drinking and addresses enforcement and prosecution problems regarding social hosts. It applies to any host who is providing a location for the consumption of alcohol by individuals under 18 (State Law 123.47 Section 1).

Only people who know the drinking is happening and gave permission in the first place or do nothing to stop the underage drinking can be prosecuted. The law does not apply to:
  • persons who did not know the underage drinking was occurring on their property.
  • parental knowledge, consent, and presence with their own child in their home or a private home of another
  • religious observance or sacrament

  • Violation of Iowa’s Social Host Law is a criminal offense, meaning the host can be punished with a monetary $200 fine per minor for the first offense (State Law 123.47 Section 1).
    We want our youth to grow up to be strong, healthy and drug-free. To do so, we need to establish a culture where supplying alcohols to minors is not accepted. Adults who knowingly permit youth to consume alcohol at their home are sending the wrong message to our youth.

    While no one strategy can prevent underage drinking, this legal approach limits youth's access to alcohol at large parties, which encourage binge drinking and drunk driving.

    Social Host Ordinance

    The law only includes minors under the age of 18. However, the legal drinking age is 21. A Social Host Ordinance would cover this gap and address all underage drinking. In addition the state law only includes a criminal fine, while an ordinance could include a criminal or civil fine that can be applied on top of other violations, such as a providing alcohol to minors citation or an operating while intoxicated violation.

    Social Host Ordinances make the statement: “We as a community, will no longer tolerate anyone providing a place for underage drinking.”
    You as a community member can help pass this ordinance and better protect youth from underage drinking. Passing a Social Host Ordinance is a process, and the ordinance may look slightly different in each city or county. Here are the steps we recommend:

    1. Join with other community members and coalitions to talk about this effort.
    2. Create some buzz, using handouts or social media, to energize your neighbors to join you in preventing underage drinking. Remind them that taking the keys and allowing the drinking is never safe, legal, or in youths' best interest. There is more to consider.
    3. Meet with law enforcement and local elected officials to discuss and plan how this ordinance will benefit your city or county. Ask, “How do we want this ordinance to look in our city/county?”
    4. Once law enforcement and elected officials agree to considered the ordinance, the elected officials should contact their county or city attorney to draft the ordinance.
    5. The elected body then sets the dates for discussion and public input before voting.
    6. Up to those dates, get coalition members and the general public to encourage the elected officials to pass this ordinance. Write letters to the editors. You can also be present at public meetings that address this topic.

    Bottom line: It is important to be actively involved, provide accurate information and concerns, and express your desire to have this ordinance passed.
    Prevent Harmful Consequences
    Underage drinking can be linked to many unfortunate events that happen to our youth, which directly or indirectly affect the community. An ordinance can help prevent consequences, such as:
  • poor grades, lowering school rankings
  • loss of friends, leading to disconnected and secluded citizens
  • drunken driving accidents
  • violence
  • sexual assault

    This local law is a way for parents, teachers, coaches and communities to say "enough" to adults who, by providing the space for these parties, support underage drinking and harm the community.

    Increase Local Government Funding
    Money generated from either a civil or criminal ordinance fine can be used in various ways as decided by the city or county. Some counties use the funds for further prevention efforts and campaigns in their area. Money from fines has also supported local and county law enforcement with new equipment that helps decrease underage drinking.
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