Excise police target those hosting parties for underage drinkers

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By Kendall Downing

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A fall Friday means it's prime time for teen partying and underage drinking.

Now, Indiana State Excise Police have a new warning for parents or anyone giving alcohol to minors. There's a new law on the books that can get you caught.

Indiana lawmakers approved what's called the "Social Host Law" earlier this year. It's an add-on to the state's furnishing alcohol law already in place.

You may not provide the alcohol to teens, but if you provide the place for them to drink, police can charge you.

Friday brought a crisp fall afternoon on Butler's campus. Students were primed for a weekend of fun, capping off Homecoming week. But chances are someone underage will be drinking soon.

"I think in a college setting, you kind of have to expect it," said Nicholas Fox, a freshman.

Off-campus parties anywhere keep Excise police busy.

"I feel the new law has helped us greatly," said Officer Brandon Thomas, with Indiana State Excise Police.

Thomas said police are going after the people that throw the parties.

"So if you're there, and you're hosting a party, you are responsible for the minors drinking in that case," he said.

The state's new "Social Host Law" gives police authority to charge the host. Before Thomas said they could only cite someone after witnessing alcohol handed out to a minor or proving it was provided.

"We don't actually have to see the alcoholic beverage being furnished to the minor as long as they were there consuming it. We can cite the homeowners," he said.

Thomas said it applies to house parties and apartments, which means areas near college campuses could see the effects.

"Our daughter is 21. She lives off campus, and if she were not in town, and her roommate hosted a party and there was a problem, I wouldn't want her to be charged with anything," said Lisa Liebel, a parent of a Butler University senior.

Thomas said officers use discretion.

"The people that's going to be held liable are the people that's on site. So if there is a roommate off campus that's not in the area, they won't be charged in that case," he said.

The tougher law comes as Excise police step up the fight against fake IDs. Some are even working undercover as clerks in stores or doormen at bars all around Indiana.

"With the increase in fake IDs, there's been an increase in minors using fake IDs," he said, "There has been a renewed push in recent years, probably in the last three to four years because of the increase in false IDs."

If arrested under the "Social Host Law" it is a class B Misdemeanor provided you have no other convictions. That's a fine of up to $1000 and up to 180 days in jail.

With prior convictions, it would be a Class A Misdemeanor, and if there's an alcohol related death or serious injury, the charge could be bumped up to a Level 6 Felony.