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Georgia county looks to control underage drinking

Drinking alcohol often begins as a social activity, shared with family and friends. Many responsible parents try to introduce their children to alcohol in a safe environment so they can accustom themselves to its effects on the mind and body. This is why Georgia law allows minors to drink under their parents' supervision and in their parents' homes.

But social events can become pressure to drink, especially when minors mix with people who can drink legally on their own. One jurisdiction in the Peach State is considering a new approach to supervised underage drinking to rein in its effect when minors are not controlled or kept safe.

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners is considering an amendment to their "social host" ordinance, which would put greater responsibility on the people who own or rent the homes where underage drinking may occur.

The amendment would ensure hosts must take "reasonable steps" to control access to alcohol so minors cannot drink with impunity. A host may also be responsible for verifying the ages of unknown guests and supervising the underage guests. Hosts would also have to stay on the premises for the entire social gathering under the proposed law.

The statewide exception for parents supervising their children would remain unaffected by the amendment. The families of children accused of underage drinking may consult an attorney to review the circumstances and figure out a legal defense against charges. There are many circumstances, such as a child unknowingly consuming alcohol, in which he or she may not be considered liable under Georgia criminal law.

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