A Bay St. Louis woman was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with nearly three dozen violations of Mississippi's "social host" law, which makes it unlawful for an adult to knowingly allow minors to consume alcoholic beverages on his or her property.

Ashley C. Egger, 46, was arrested at a little after midnight after someone reported that minors were drinking at a prom party at her home, Bay St. Louis police officials said. Egger was charged with 35 separate counts of violating the social host law. She was booked at the Hancock County Jail, but released later Sunday after posting $3,500 in bonds -- $100 on each count.

Although the crime is a misdemeanor, each individual count carries a fine of up to $1,000 and a 90-day jail sentence, at the discretion of the court.

According to the Mississippi Code, "No adult who owns or leases a private residence or private premises shall knowingly allow a party to take place or continue at the residence or premises if a minor at the party obtains, possesses or consumes any alcoholic beverage, light wine or beer if the adult knows that the minor has obtained, possesses or is consuming alcoholic beverages, light wine or beer."

"As a community, we do not have to accept underage drinking as a community norm," Hancock County Drug Free Communities Director Rhonda Rhodes said Monday.

Drug Free Communities, under the auspices of the Hancock Resource Center, has been leading a campaign to curtail underage drinking during prom and graduation season.

"It is our responsibility to teach youth that underage drinking is not a rite of passage,” Rhodes said. "In January of 2019, the Hancock Community Coalition surveyed Hancock County students in grades 6-12. That data shows that the vast majority of students are not drinking (74 percent) and more than 90 percent perceive that their parents feel underage drinking is wrong. Teens indicated that underage drinking is happening at parties that adults host, even if they are not home when the party occurs."

A hearing for the case has been scheduled for July 12 in Bay St. Louis Municipal Court.

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