Police Chiefs Discuss Possible Changes To Nuisance Party Law

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City of Athens officials briefed members of Ohio University's Student Senate on possible changes to the city's nuisance party law during its first meeting of the year.

OUPD Police Chief Andrew Powers and Athens City Police Chief Tom Pyle from the Joint Police Advisory Council (JPAC) along with Athens City Councilman Steve Patterson discussed possible decriminalization of violations to the city's nuisance party law.

Patterson said that the city would like to move away from giving students criminal records.

“One of the big issues that was coming forward was a student leaving from Ohio University, graduating, and you’re having to go to your first job and you're sitting there with a fourth degree misdemeanor on your record and hearing ‘huh, interesting.’” Paterson said.

Individuals can be currently be charged under the nuisance party law when their party becomes too loud, dangerous, destructive or when hosts are providing alcohol to minors.

The possible ordinance would change violations from criminal charges requiring court time to civil violations with a potential $250 fine. Parking tickets are a type of civil violation.

Chief Pyle said that the city and the police feel the current law is too punitive in assessing criminal charges that stay with students after they graduate.

“We started to consider the nuisance party [law] and enhancing it, thinking that it may be a more effective measure for the community and culture that we have here,” Pyle said. “The nuisance party might be a better way to address our concerns with unsafe drinking habits.”

Pyle said that the nuisance party law is only enforced when hosts of a nuisance party fail to shut the party down when warned by police. He said out of 80 or 90 reports of nuisance parties, only 1 or 2 are usually charged.

JPAC decided to focus on changing the nuisance party law after receiving criticism for considering a social host policy last spring that would have set higher accountability for the hosts of parties.

The changes are not a city ordinance yet, as the changes are still be considered in committee and in JPAC.