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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Davis City Council considers Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act

In 2014, the Davis City Council will meet again to discuss a city ordinance that will make underage drinking a chargeable offense. If the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act is passed, it will be illegal for minors (under age 21) to have a blood alcohol level of .02 percent or greater in a public place.

A City Council meeting was scheduled on Oct. 9 to discuss the act, but now it has been pushed back until after Jan. 1. After the ordinance was proposed, there was some misunderstanding toward the ordinance, especially from the student population.

“Currently, we need probable cause to arrest a person [minor] for drinking,” said Darren Pytel, the assistant police chief for the Davis Police Department (DPD).

According to Pytel, the DPD can make arrests for drinking related conduct, including: having an open container, being drunk in public, supplying minors with alcohol and minors possessing an open container.

There is no way to charge a minor being inebriated unless they break one or more of the above laws. The Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act essentially fixes a loophole that has existed in the controlled substance system.

The Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act was brought up by the Davis City Council a couple of years ago, but no decision was made.

According to Pytel, while the City Council is ultimately responsible for deciding whether or not to pass the act, the DPD has to figure out a way to make it effective.

While the act will not completely remove alcohol-related problems in the community, such as vandalism and public disturbances, it should reduce the number of offenders.

Many residents in the City of Davis encourage the instatement of the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act. Residents worry about keeping their communities safe as well as the safety of minors who are drinking underage.

“There is strong community support [for the act] due to alcohol-related issues,” Pytel said. “It’s still a work in progress.”

Due to the large student population of the City of Davis, issues stemming from underage students under the influence of alcohol are common.

“[Minors] are often impaired and obnoxious in residential areas of Davis,” Pytel said.

Families with young children who live in the City of Davis are especially upset by the conduct of some alcohol-impaired minors.

“Our kids have been woken up by students coming home from parties late at night,” said Nanette Walker, a resident of Davis. “It’s just not a good situation.”

There is also a lot of vandalism that occurs, which Walker believes is connected to underage alcohol consumption as well.

“We’ve had our house egged, and students leave trash on the streets. They also think that doing things [like] stealing signs is funny,” Walker said. “Then we [taxpayers and homeowners] have to clean up after them.”

Students were worried about what the act might mean to them, as shown by immense support on a Facebook page that encouraged students to go to the City Council meeting and voice their concerns.

Pamela Nonga, an ASUCD senator and a fourth-year political science and communication double major who created the Facebook page, believes that the most important part of the whole situation is keeping people safe.

“We need to make sure that we have a positive relationship between police and students,” Nonga said. “We want students to be willing to get help when they need it.”

Students also worry that if the act is passed in 2014, the amount of drunk driving in the city will increase.

“If people are worried about getting their BAC [blood alcohol level] tested while they’re walking home, they will be a lot more likely to get in the car and drive,” Meyer said. “Which is worse?”

A lot of misunderstanding about the act has circled in the community since students got wind of it.

“Friends told me that it meant that police would just randomly come up and test my blood alcohol level,” said Jarid Meyer, a second-year biochemistry major. “It felt like a huge invasion of privacy.”

According to Pytel, this is not the case. The police must have probable cause to do a blood alcohol test.

Meyer agreed with Nonga that no matter what happens with the act, students, police and residents of the City of Davis need to maintain a good relationship, in order to preserve everyone’s safety.

“[Alcohol poisoning] is a real issue, and should be taken seriously. Don’t avoid calling for help for a friend [that needs it] just because you’re worried about getting in trouble,” Meyer said.

While no decisions have been made about the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act, it will come in front of City Council again at the beginning of 2014.


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