Remember when you threw your first house party and your older friends told you to post “no drinking if you are under 21” signs next to the keg?
Those signs, as much a staple of house parties as beer and vomiting, don’t do anything – they won’t shelter you from Michigan’s host law. According to the host law, knowingly allowing a minor to consume alcohol in one’s home is a misdemeanor.
The first offense is punishable by a 30-day jail term and/or a $1,000 fine.
The signs passed down from student to student are an urban legend, said Douglas Lewis, director of Student Legal Services.
They’re also not enough to protect students from the law, he said.
“A sign by itself is totally ineffective,” Lewis said. “Those who have parties need to make a fairly serious effort to make sure people who are underage are not drinking.”
In an interview last fall, Sgt. Ed Dreslinski of the Ann Arbor Police Department said the law is rarely enforced. He could only recall three instances where students were charged under the host law in his 15 years with the police.
It does happen, though.
In 1999, 10 members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity were charged with host law violations for serving alcohol to a minor.
After drinking at a Phi Delta Theta party in October of 1999, LSA freshman Courtney Cantor fell to her death from the window in her room in Mary Markley Residence Hall.
Although the Washtenaw County prosecuting attorney ruled that no criminal actions were involved in Cantor’s death, 10 Phi Delta Theta brothers were charged with furnishing alcohol to minors and allowing minors to drink.
Although the signs might not serve any practical purpose, students seem to think they do, Lewis said.
“It’s like the myth where if you are drunk and put a penny on yourtongue when you take a Breathalyzer test, you will pass,” he said. “Who knows where this stuff comes from?”