Gavel with paperwork

Cody's Law Finally Closes the Door on "Social Hosting"

"Social Hosting" is now on the books: It is illegal to supply underage persons with alcohol or illegal narcotics on your property. While this seems like a no-brainer, in 2004 when Cody Ryan Greenhaw died at the age of 16 from an alcohol and drug overdose while at a friends house, there was no law, no criminal investigation and no one was punished. Since that time, Cody's mother has been pressuring state legislators to take action. Finally, in May of 2011, Governor Mary Fallin signed into law House Bill 1211 or "Cody's Law."

The measure, which went into effect November 1, 2011, states that no person shall knowingly or willfully permit another person who is an invitee under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol or any controlled dangerous substance or any combination thereof. There are several things to note here that on the surface may not be plainly understood. First, the law not only refers to adults, but also expressly prohibits any person from engaging in "social hosting. " This may mean that minors may be liable for a violation of the new rule as well. How far state legislators intended to reach when they decided to use the word person will have be decided in the future. For now, just understand that the statute apparently authorizes the legal consequences to extend beyond any parents that may be involved.

Also worth pointing out, the individual under 21 must be an invitee of the host. This is an old legal term that differentiates between visiting friends, business patrons and intruders. An illustration of an invitee is a friend you have invited over. While this may seem like common sense, as with all legal expressions, it carries varying features and qualifications that can make it more complicated. For example, a friend you invited over for coffee may be an invitee at first, but if that person stays longer than you intended or wanders around your house where you haven't given them permission to go, their legal status as an invitee may have changed.

Penalties under the new measure are on a sliding scale. For a first offense, the maximum punishment is a misdemeanor conviction along with a fine of up to $500. A second violation within 10 years of the first can carry with it another misdemeanor conviction and up to $1,000 in fines. If convicted more than twice within 10 years, the offender may be found guilty of a felony and could face fines of not more than $2,500 or imprisonment for up to 5 years or both. Additional consequences may be had in the event an individual is hurt as a result of "social hosting."