Misconceptions surround Social Host Law

The Board of Trustees for the Village of Geneseo adopted the Social Host Law on April 20, 2015. One year later, at least two students have been subjected to the fine associated with the ordinance. Although there has been consistent conversation surrounding the law, frequent misinformation has led to confusion behind what actually constitutes an arrest. Upon violation of the Social Host Law, those who are found guilty are subject to a $250 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 15 days, along with successful completion of a court-approved alcohol and drug awareness program. In subsequent violations, fines are raised to $500 in addition to potential imprisonment.

In a press release on Nov. 9, the Geneseo Police Department reported the arrests of three students. The students’ arrests were a consequence of unlawfully dealing with a child, not the Social Host Law. Although two students were also fined, they were arrested under a different charge—providing alcohol to a minor.

Additional misconceptions revolve around the absence of a Good Samaritan clause within the legislation—New York State developed the 911 Good Samaritan Law in Sept. 2011.

According to a Drug Policy Alliance release, “This policy seeks to encourage people to call 911 when witnessing or experiencing an alcohol or other drug overdose by providing a limited shield from charge and prosecution for possession of narcotics, marijuana, and, for minors, alcohol. The policy also provides limited immunity from arrest when the witness(es) who call 911 or the overdoes victim possess residual or very small amounts of drugs.”

The clause does not provide immunity for hosts who allow minors to consume alcohol or narcotics on their property, meaning the Good Samaritan Law would still allow for a Social Host Law violation.

“I would say that ... and this was [a misconception I had] myself, that instituting a Good Samaritan clause would affect the Social Host Law ... because New York State is a Good Samaritan state,” Village Trustee junior Matthew Cook said. “It doesn’t affect the person calling and it doesn’t affect the fact that they’re having a party where people are drinking … it just depends on the fact that those people are safe.”

Geneseo has a similar policy to that of New York. According to college’s website, “Students who contact College authorities or emergency medical responders for their own personal medical needs may be exempt from student conduct sanctions for the possession and consumption of alcohol or drugs.”

Students will be evaluated under the Good Samaritan clause if they remain where they are or with the person who requires emergency care. It is also necessary for them to identify themselves and to cooperate with responders to the emergency.

In addition to clearing up misconceptions regarding the Social Host Law, Cook hopes to make it more transparent and “black and white” while in office. “It comes from both sides of the argument I feel … one was why this was really implemented, but I know great answers haven’t been given from Village police and from other institutions that had a hand in implementing the law,” he said. “There was a forum last semester and great answers weren’t given.”