Teen drinking leads to calls for
Published: January 11, 2013
AN OUT-OF-CONTROL party that landed one
teen in the hospital for alcohol poisoning and raised concerns
another might have been sexually assaulted while passed out has
led to calls for a city law making it a crime to host a party
where underage drinking occurs. The city council could consider
a draft ordinance within the next month or two, Mayor Jason
Burnett said at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Heath Rocha, a Carmel Unified School District director who
oversees the district’s drug and alcohol prevention efforts,
told the council Jan. 8 that Carmel High School students “use
and abuse drugs and alcohol at an alarming rate,” exceeding that
of their counterparts in Pacific Grove, Monterey County and
To help combat that abuse by getting parents and the community
more involved in preventing their children from drinking and
doing drugs, Rocha said, a group of CHS parents formed Carmel
CARES, which stands for Committed to Achieving Results and
Ensuring Success. A crucial aspect is persuading adults not to
allow underage drinking in their homes.
“A couple of months ago, there was a party that took place in
the Carmel-by-the-Sea city limits, with about 30 Carmel High
School students,” Rocha said during the public comment period at
the meeting. Carmel P.D. was called, and a few teenagers were
“And unfortunately, one student was taken to the hospital for
alcohol poisoning,” he said. “Another student went to the
hospital because she may have been sexually assaulted while she
was unconscious at the party.”
(Carmel P.D. detective Rachelle Lightfoot told The Pine Cone
that police cited three teenagers for curfew violation, and an
intoxicated adult received a strong warning. She also reported
there is no significant evidence the girl was sexually assaulted
at the Oct. 28, 2012, party — which took place in a San Antonio
Avenue home belonging to the grandparents of a CHS student and
grew out of control as word spread via social networking — but
DNA results have yet to come back from the state Department of
Justice lab to help confirm it one way or another.)
The incident prompted Rocha to email Burnett, Carmel P.D. Sgt.
Paul Tomasi (who has since been promoted to commander, as of
Jan. 1), and Chief Mike Calhoun, asking them to draft and
implement a social-host ordinance.
The new law “would hold individuals — social hosts — criminally
accountable for allowing, knowingly or unknowingly, an event to
take place where alcohol is consumed by minors,” Rocha said. “It
also addresses the commonly held belief that underage binge
drinking is inevitable or simply a right of passage,” and is
therefore acceptable, even though it’s illegal.
Parents are also known to allow their teenagers and friends to
drink alcohol in their homes with the belief that it’s better to
know where they are and that they are not driving.
Rocha provided a copy of a similar law in Marin County that
carries fines of $750 for the first offense, $1,500 for the
second and $2,500 for the third, and also holds hosts liable for
public-safety services used during second and subsequent
“I urge you to adopt an ordinance with the stiffest of
penalties and serve as a model for other municipalities,” he
told the council.
Pacific Grove has a social-host ordinance in its municipal code
and used the law to cite then-19-year-old Christopher Veloz, who
held the party where teen Aaron Corn was drinking before he
drove and crashed his SUV into a tree near Skyline Forest,
partially paralyzing friend Chelsie Hill, who was a passenger in
the car, in February 2010.
After the meeting, Calhoun said Tomasi, who also runs the
department’s juvenile diversion program to help young offenders
correct their ways before they end up in the criminal justice
system, is working with city attorney Don Freeman to draft the
ordinance. According to Calhoun, the county, as well as the
cities of Monterey and Marina, have similar laws on the books.