Social Host Ordinance Information

Social Host Ordinance FAQ’s

The Social Host Ordinance was introduced in Santa Barbara County to help prevent underage drinking throughout the county by offering a deterrent for parents to provide alcohol to their children in a party setting. Although not intended to target Isla Vista, the ordinance will affect Isla Vista’s student residents in a unique way because many are over 18, but still under 21. We hope that these FAQ’s will help explain the ordinance clearly so you understand which party situations would violate the ordinance and what the consequences are if you are cited. More questions? Email us:


What is the Social Host Liability Ordinance?

The ordinance holds individuals responsible for hosting, or knowingly providing a place for underage drinking to occur.

What is a “Social Host?”

A “Social Host” refers to a person(s) who knowingly allows the possession or consumption of alcohol by underage drinkers on property that he/she owns, leases, or otherwise controls.

How is a Social Host Liability Ordinance different than laws that already exist?

Under current laws it is illegal to furnish alcohol to individuals under the age of 21. However, in a party setting, it is often difficult or impossible to identify who provided the alcohol. Therefore, the new ordinance assigns responsibility to those who knew or should have known that party was occurring on their property involving underage drinking.

What are the civil penalties for violating the proposed Social Host Ordinance?

First offense: $500.00 with mandatory education class

Second offense: $1,000

Third offense: $2,000

Is there an appeals process if I believe I am unjustly cited under this ordinance?

Yes, you may file an appeal with the County within 10 days of the citation and an appeal hearing will be set to voice your request before an appointed Hearing Examiner.

How can I avoid breaking the law?

Check IDs at the door.
Be aware of who is in your home and what they might be bringing to the party.
Know who’s at your party. When you let randoms who may be underage in your house/yard to drink, you are risking violation of this ordinance.
If you discover that underage people are drinking at your party, ask them to stop or ask them to leave. If they refuse, you may have to call the police.


What defines an unlawful party gathering regarding this new law?

It is unlawful to have a gathering of 5 or more persons, where underage drinkers are present and are in possession or consumption of alcohol.

Can law enforcement enter my house without permission?

The Social Host Liability Ordinance does not increase law enforcement’s ability to enter someone’s home or property. The State of California allows law enforcement to enter a private residence without a search warrant for the following reasons: Exigent circumstances, Plain View, Fresh/Hot Pursuit, and Consent/Permission. Law enforcement officers would continue to be held to the same standards decided upon by the Supreme Court.

How is “private residence” and “private premise” defined?

“Private residence” has been defined as the place where one actually lives, or has his or her home. “Private premise” is defined as any home, yard, open areas adjacent thereto, out buildings, rented meeting rooms or halls, hotel and motel room, or any dwelling unit whether occupied on a temporary or permanent basis. If underage drinking occurs in your “private residence” or within your “private premise” you can be cited for the social host ordinance.

How many individuals can receive a citation for each gathering?

One or more hosts can be cited for the unlawful party if there is evidence of multiple hosts.

Will the citations go to the property or the individual host?

The individual host.

Does a complaint have to be filed before a citation can be issued?

In reality, no, although officers will be responding to loud and unruly parties first and foremost. If it is determined that underage individuals are drinking in a host situation, then a citation can be issued.

Where can I find the exact wording of this ordinance?


What if I am out of town for the weekend or am not present in my apartment and my roommate hosts a party and underage people are drinking, am I responsible?

Individuals are not held responsible for an unlawful party if they are not aware that the party is taking place.

What if I am in my apartment and not actively involved in the unlawful party, am I responsible?

Individuals who knowingly allow underage alcohol use on their private property or premise will be held responsible (Definition of Knowingly; – consciously; willfully; subject to complete understanding of the facts or circumstances.) If an individual is not aware that an underage person brought alcohol onto the property or if the underage person is concealing the alcohol, roommate will not be held responsible. Police officers must establish probable cause by determining that a person knew or should have known that underage drinking was occurring on the premises.

For detail information, please see