The Davis City Council recently proposed the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance. This measure would make it lawful to fine those under 21 who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level equal to or greater than .01 percent in a public place, including streets and highways.
This would make it illegal to have alcohol in your system in public if you are under 21, while at present it is unlawful to be drunk and disruptive.
This proposal sets a ridiculous standard, especially for a college town like Davis where underage drinking is prevalent. Not only that, but from an ethical standpoint, it is not the city’s job to impose unrealistic and Puritan morals on its citizens.
Imagine a cop showing up at a party in which students under age 21 have been drinking. It would be an inefficient use of police resources to cite everyone with a BAC at all as the party-goers shuffle out to the street.
Perhaps the city should invest in setting up DUI checkpoints. This would productively prevent drunk driving, rather than worrying about individuals who most likely are only harming themselves.
The potential ordinance has the capacity to inhibit students’ rights, as there are no explicit parts of the proposal that state how police would determine probable cause for breathalyzing minors in public places. Would a person have to be stumbling down Frat Row in order to be stopped, or could police simply breathalyze someone strolling quietly downtown? For some it only takes one teaspoon of cough syrup to break this limit of .01.
Councilmember Sue Greenwald said it best: “Twenty-one is a pretty high drinking age. I’m not sure I want to be on the forefront of the very aggressive enforcement of behavior that for the most part only hurts the person.”
This measure is not going to reduce alcohol consumption; it is only going to make people more fearful of cops, pitting the city against students. Rather than trying to fight underage consumption in a college town, the city should use its time and energy to promote safe alcohol consumption.