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City working on amending Nuisance Party Ordinance

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The penalty for throwing a nuisance party might soon change from a criminal to a civil offense. The Athens Police Department, City Council and Joint Police Advisory Council are looking to amend the penalty for Nuisance Parties.

According to At-Large Athens City Council Rep. and Joint Police Advisory Council (JPAC) member, Steve Patterson, the fine for throwing a nuisance party would be $250. This would also allow for a 30-day period to argue the citation. After being cited once, the next time becomes a criminal offense.

“The current ordinance does not give us a chance to teach students about what is acceptable behavior,” said Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle, “We want to decriminalize parties that just get a little out of hand.”

Back in the Spring, JPAC brought up the idea of adding a social-hosting policy to the Nuisance Party Ordinance. The policy would have held party hosts accountable for any illegal activity on their property.

Patterson said this amendment is what they came up with as a good balance. Pyle agreed with this, saying, “We can arrest people for more serious offenses after the fact; let’s start with a civil process first.”

“This gives students a chance to take responsibility for their actions, with all the angst about police lately,” Fourth Ward Rep. Chris Fahl said.

Several student members of JPAC were given the chance to speak at the City Council meeting Monday night on the proposed amendment as well. They all agreed the proposed fine is excessive.

Senior Caleb Balduff suggested a $150 fine instead, saying, “Two-hundred fifty dollars is just way too much for college students to afford.”

Other community members and officials are concerned about the difficulty of finding out which member of the house would get the citation. Pyle said the police officers would take this on a case-by-case basis and suggests this is easier on the people living in the house than figuring out which one is going to get the criminal record, as the ordinance is written now.

Pyle said this also encourages the party hosts to call the police in advance to disband an  out-of-control party to avoid a citation.

Now that the amendment has officially been submitted to the City Council, it will be discussed further in the next few weeks. If it is completely agreed upon, it will be brought up for reading at a council meeting in the future.

“For now, students charged with throwing nuisance parties will still have a criminal charge brought upon them, giving them a criminal record.  Hopefully we can get this ordinance changed soon so it’s not just one strike and you’re out,” said Pyle.

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