Athens City Council’s Nuisance Party Penalty Hits Snag

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The proposal to increase the fine for nuisance party violations but lower the criminal penalty took a major hit at the Athens City Council meeting Monday night.

The $250 fine proposed for being cited with a nuisance party was under fire during the first reading of the amendment to Athens City Code. Patrick Lang, the Director of Law, told council members that there could only be a maximum fine of $150.

Currently, a person cited for having a nuisance party would be guilty of a minor misdemeanor, which goes on a criminal record. Now, the proposed amendment gives a large fine of $250 to anyone cited for a first offense, but without the burden of the minor misdemeanor charge.  

Athens City Council drafted this amendment to avoid the criminal record that a lot of Ohio University students face after being cited only once for having a wild party. If the proposed amendment passed, the violator would face minor misdemeanor charges only if they did not pay the fine after thirty days. A second offense would still incur a fourth degree misdemeanor, which means a bigger fine and criminal record.

Lang started his announcement with an apology. According to Ohio Revised Code, a person who appeals for a minor misdemeanor in court would get a maximum fine of $150.

Since Ohio state law takes precedence over city laws, the city council cannot raise a fine higher than the state government maximum.

Lang recommended a reduction of the fine to $150 or increasing the level of penalty from minor misdemeanor to a fourth degree misdemeanor.

Council member Steve Patterson voiced his disappointment with the lesser fine by saying, “we have worked long and hard trying to negotiate back and forth across the field and trying to make sure that our community, we’re working in a responsible way and also in a fair and balanced way.”

Council member Chris Fahl responded back classifying the lesser fine as “wimpy.” All council members agreed that they are not happy with smaller fine, but want to avoid criminal charges. They will revisit the criminal charges proposed in the amendment at the second reading.

The city council also addressed amendments about buying road salt, storing garbage containers out of street and address view and buying a new fire truck.