Mercer Island underage drinking ordinance goes into effect Jan. 13

The City's new underage drinking ordinance will go into effect on Jan. 13, 2012.

Last January, the Council directed staff to examine the option of creating a civil infraction as an additional method of deterring underage drinking in Mercer Island.

An underage gathering where alcohol is consumed “constitutes a public nuisance, is an immediate threat to public health and safety, and is prohibited,” the ordinance states. The ordinance is designed specifically to deter drinking by anyone under the age of 19 and excludes landlords from liability.

In brief, a civil infraction or a ticket would be issued to a person whose residence is used for an underage gathering involving the consumption of alcohol, regardless of whether or not the responsible person permitted such activity. Those cited would be fined $250 for the first offense.

The ordinance invokes strict liability if a party occurs at the home of an adult, or premises they control. The intent is to establish that a violation has occurred — similar to driving at a speed higher than the posted limit on an Island roadway. The officer in such a situation has the discretion as to whether a ticket should be written. A judge can listen to evidence that a person was not responsible for what happened and reduce the fine or dismiss the case.

To learn more read previous Reporter stories on the topic.


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