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Social host laws

Health Factors: Alcohol & Drug Use
Decision Makers: Local Government State Government
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 20-49% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Social host liability laws hold private property owners who provide alcohol or allow its provision to minors or obviously intoxicated individuals on their property liable if someone is killed or injured as a result of the provision of that alcohol. Social host liability varies from state to state, and can take the form of criminal or civil actions.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced impaired driving
Reduced excessive drinking
Reduced underage drinking

Evidence of Effectiveness

Social host liability laws are a suggested strategy to reduce drunk driving, heavy episodic drinking, and underage drinking (Hingson 2014, Wagoner 2012, Saltz 2010, Dills 2010, Wagenaar 2001, Stout 2000). Available evidence suggests that these policies may reduce heavy episodic drinking and drinking and driving (Stout 2000, Wagoner 2012), particularly among adolescents who already drink (Paschall 2014). One study of 18-20 year olds indicates that such laws are more likely to affect drinking and driving than heavy drinking (Dills 2010).

Underage drinking parties may be smaller in communities that have established social host policies than communities that have not (Wagoner 2013). When implemented along with other interventions, social host liability laws have been shown to reduce heavy drinking among college students at off-campus parties, bars, and restaurants (Saltz 2010).  Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.


United States

As of 2014, 28 states had social host liability laws in place (APIS-Social host). Nine states’ laws focus specifically on underage parties, whereas 19 states have broader policies (APIS-Social host).


Wisconsin has had a social host liability law in place since 1985 (Dills 2010).

Implementation Resources

GFPC-Lacy 2011 - Lacy D, Becket M. A how-to guide to implementing a social host ordinance in your community. Steamboat Springs: Grand Futures Prevention Coalition (GFPC); 2011. Accessed on January 27, 2016
PIRE-Social host - Center for the Study of Law and Enforcement Policy (CSLEP), Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). Model social host liability ordinance with legal commentary. Ventura: Training, Applied Research, and Alcohol and Drug Prevention Division, Ventura County Behavioral Health Department (VCBH); 2005. Accessed on March 14, 2016
WA-Social host guide - Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking (RUaD). Drafting a social host ordinance: A how-to guide for Washington state communities. Olympia: Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS); 2011. Accessed on November 18, 2015

Citations - Evidence

Dills 2010* - Dills AK. Social host liability for minors and underage drunk-driving accidents. Journal of Health Economics. 2010;29(2):241-9. Accessed on January 12, 2016
Hingson 2014 - Hingson R, White A. New research findings since the 2007 Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking: A review. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2014;75(1):158-169. Accessed on March 3, 2016
Paschall 2014* - Paschall MJ, Lipperman-Kreda S, Grube JW, Thomas S. Relationships between social host laws and underage drinking: Findings from a study of 50 California cities. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2014;75(6):901-907. Accessed on March 3, 2016
Saltz 2010* - Saltz RF, Paschall MJ, McGaffigan RP, Nygaard PMO. Alcohol risk management in college settings: The safer California universities randomized trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2010;39(6):491-9. Accessed on May 24, 2016
Stout 2000* - Stout EM, Sloan FA, Liang L, Davies HH. Reducing harmful alcohol-related behaviors: Effective regulatory methods. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2000;61(3):402-12. Accessed on November 18, 2015
Wagenaar 2001* - Wagenaar AC, Denk CE, Hannan PJ, Chen H, Harwood EM. Liability of commercial and social hosts for alcohol-related injuries: A national survey of accountability norms and judgments. Public Opinion Quaterly. 2001;65(3):344-68. Accessed on November 9, 2015
Wagoner 2012* - Wagoner KG, Francisco VT, Sparks M, et al. A review of social host policies focused on underage drinking parties: Suggestions for future research. Journal of Drug Education. 2012;42(1):99-117. Accessed on December 12, 2015
Wagoner 2013* - Wagoner KG, Sparks M, Francisco VT, et al. Social host policies and underage drinking parties. Substance Use & Misuse. 2013;48(1-2):41-53. Accessed on March 3, 2016

Citations - Implementation

APIS-Social host - Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS). Underage drinking: Prohibitions against hosting underage drinking parties. Accessed on March 3, 2016
Dills 2010* - Dills AK. Social host liability for minors and underage drunk-driving accidents. Journal of Health Economics. 2010;29(2):241-9. Accessed on January 12, 2016

Page Last Updated

July 27, 2015

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