Changes Associated with Social Host Laws in Maryland

  • A civil social host law allows law enforcement to write a civil citation – similar to a speeding ticket – to the host of a loud unruly party. Behaviors that can trigger a citation include underage drinking or excessive noise, unruly crowds, blocking sidewalks or streets, public drunkenness, vandalism, littering, assaults, or other behavior threatening public health and safety.
  • A civil social host law can mitigate creating criminal records for responsible parties who are cited under the ordinance due to the civil versus criminal penalty structure.

  • Since 2015, five local jurisdictions – Baltimore City, Baltimore County (in effect in Towson and neighborhoods bordering UMBC), Frostburg, College Park and the town of Princess Anne – have adopted civil social host ordinances. These jurisdictions have seen
    • Reductions in calls for service related to large house parties.
    • Reductions in excessive drinking at house parties among college students
  • Two jurisdictions saw a 70% drop in complaint calls for excessive noise.
  • One university in Baltimore City saw community complaints for noise violations decrease from 171 in 2014 – 2015 academic year to 55 in 2018 – 2019: a 68% decrease after the city ordinance was adopted in June 2015 [1].
  • Nearby college campuses have seen a significant reduction in the number of students who report drinking at off-campus house parties and in the number of students who engage in binge drinking.

  • Maryland college students who drank at an off-campus house party in the past month were three times more likely to injure someone, damage property, perform poorly on a test or project, or get in trouble with campus police, compared to those who did not. They were also twice as likely to miss class and get in trouble with off-campus police, and more than 1.5 times as likely to ride with a drinking driver, experience sexual misconduct, or have unprotected sex [2].
  • These loud and unruly off-campus parties disturb neighbors with excessive noise, public urination, vandalism, littering, and large crowds blocking public streets and sidewalks
  • The town of Princess Anne a 64% drop in student arrests at one student housing complex in two years after the town adopted a social host ordinance in 2016 [3].
  • According to the Princess Anne police chief, since the ordinance was adopted, there are no more large crowds or fights. The law has freed up time of officers to address other issues.


  1.  Personal communication, John Walter, Johns Hopkins University Community Liaison
  2.  Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems. High-risk drinking among college students in Maryland: Identifying targets for intervention; 2014.
  3. Princess Anne Police Department arrest records.

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