‘Rhode Rules’ – A Guide to Social Host Law

by | Oct 19, 2021

It’s illegal to provide alcohol or a place to consume alcohol to anyone under age 21

Submitted by Rhode Island Regional Prevention Coalitions in collaboration with the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals and John Snow, Inc.

Rhode Rules for Rhode Island is a public health awareness campaign to educate residents about the Social Host Law, which states it is illegal to buy, provide, supply alcohol, or provide a place to consume alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. The campaign raises awareness of the of underage drinking, including impacting brain development and decision-making skills.

The campaign was launched by the Rhode Island Prevention Coalitions funded by the Partnerships for Success Grant. These Coalitions work together to provide substance use prevention strategies, mental health resources, and advocate for policies that support healthy and safe communities. Members include youth, parents, elected officials, health care providers, faith leaders, local businesses, law enforcement, educational leaders, youth-serving organizations, and treatment providers.

What is the Social Hosting Law?

The law states it is illegal to permit an underage person to consume alcohol. “Permit” is defined as “to give permission for, or approval of, the possession or consumption of an alcoholic beverage by any form of conduct, that would cause a reasonable person to believe that permission or approval has been given.”

In essence, this means it is illegal for adults to buy, provide, supply alcohol or provide a place to consume alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. Adults are also held responsible even if they don’t know youth are consuming alcohol on their property.

 What are the Consequences of Breaking the Law?

  • First offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $350 and a maximum fine of $1,000, and/or a prison sentence not to exceed six months.
  • Second offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $750 and maximum fine of $1,000 and/or a prison sentence not to exceed one year. 1
  • Third and subsequent offenses are a felony punishable by minimum fine of $1,000 and maximum fine of $2,500 and/or a prison sentence not to exceed 3 years.

For 18- to 21 year-olds, there may be a civil penalty of not more than $500 and required attendance at an educational program approved by the Department of Health designed to recognize the dangers of underage drinking as well as completion of up to 30 hours of community service.

What’s at Risk for Youth and Communities?

A full 59 percent of young adults aged 18 to 20 who reported consuming alcohol said they got their alcohol from a friend or relative who is over 21; 35 percent say they get their alcohol from a parent or guardian.

While underage drinking can seem harmless, especially if an adult is monitoring the young adult, early exposure to alcohol can have short- and long-term effects on youth, including impacting brain development. Brains do not fully form and mature until around the age of 24.  Youths who use alcohol are also at higher risk for future substance misuse struggles and disorders. Youths who drink under the age of 21 can also experience increased anxiety and depression after drinking.

Underage drinking can lower inhibitions and increase the chances that teens will engage in risky behavior.

What can YOU do to Protect Youth?

You should agree to never buy, provide, or supply youth under the age of 21 with alcohol.

Adults should also encourage other adults within their communities to follow the Social Host Law. Make a pact to never provide alcohol to someone under the age of 21, even if the youth will be supervised in your own home.
During Homecoming and all of the fun student activities coming up in our community, make sure you do not provide or allow youth to use alcohol. Ever.

And talk to other parents to make sure they know this law. When you teen attends a party or event, call the parent and make sure alcohol will not be provided or allowed.

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Carole Gill
Carole Gill
October 19, 2021 2:55 pm

I spent years working for Codac doing substance abuse prevention and intervention in two middle schools in RI.
Kids would come into my office laughing how so-and-so’s parents let them party in their house, even buying them liquor. Partying meant drinking, drugging, and having sex. 12,13, and 14 year old children having someone’s parents’ permission for it all.
And I wished there was a way to prevent these immature parents from damaging these kids.
Now there is. Hopefully it will help reduce the number of STD’S, pregnancies, and addicted children.
Children are precious, and naive. They want guidance as much as they deny it.
Please help them grow up safe and healthy.
This law is a way to do that.
Thank you RI for protecting the children.


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