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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Residents, students discuss party ordinance

Last night students and residents learned that the power of enforcing the new nuisance party ordinances will be held to the discretions of Bowling Green law enforcement officers.

The Inter-Fraternity and Panhellenic councils held a forum last night to help students and Bowling Green residents understand the nuisance party and property ordinances that took effect in August.

The panel consisting of Mayor John Quinn, city prosecutor Matt Reger, Student Legal Services Attorney Rodney Fleming and Brad Connor of the Bowling Green Police Division, answered questions to help everyone understand the new statutes.

Nuisance party regulations include disorderly conduct, open container, public urination, damage of property, standing or parking vehicles that obstruct free flow of traffic, unlawfully loud noise, or any behavior that threatens injury or inconvenience.

Within the ordinance, there is reasoning to hold party hosts liable for someone stepping onto another person’s property, parking lot or street with an open container. It is under the officer’s discretion whether to cite the members of the house also.

According to this ordinance, if a person commits a criminal act such as, urinating on a neighbor’s property, and if an officer can reasonably expect the person to have come from another house he was partying at, those people from that house can be held responsible.

Most of these offenses have already been laws for years, but the new ordinance holds party-throwers liable. The ordinance states that any person with rightful possession or control of any premises who invites or sponsors a social gathering or party that becomes a nuisance party, is in violation of the ordinance.

“The intent of the law is to make you more responsible about who you allow to drink, who you allow at your party,” Reger said. “A bar that serves alcohol to someone is held liable, and just like that, if you are going to host a party, you have to be held responsible.”

To limit criminal acts, Reger suggests that party-throwers limit the number of people they allow at their parties and to make sure to know who comes to their parties.

Fleming finds the vagueness of the ordinance unfair.

“I am here to try to convince others to look at the fairness of this statute,” he said. “This statute extends criminal liability to the actor of the criminal act and the party thrower that they [the police officer] can have reasonable expectations to hold you liable.”

Much of how the ordinance is enforced is left to the discression of police officers.

Reger and Connor stressed that city police go to a house because of a criminal complaint or witnessed a crime.

“I put much faith in our police officers. We encourage our officers to be consistent and maintain their own discretions,” Connor said. “There is no room for not citing party throwers if there are reasonable expectations of underage drinking. We will not tolerate underage drinking.”

Students raised the question of posting signs at a party stating that a person must be 21 in order to drink alcohol. Doing so will not necessarily give protection against citations of distributing alcohol to minors. However, it is advised to do so because a citation rests on the judgment of the police officer.

“No one is telling you [students or residents] that it is not your legal right to have a party, but I don’t see how you can have a party without taking a chance of violating this statute,” Fleming said. “Because it is so broad you can still be caught in the net. And it is a big net to cast.”

Fleming stresses the importance of students being aware of their actions because they can be held liable for what they may not have fair warning of. He also believes it is too difficult to conform everyone’s actions in order to host a party that will not violate the ordinance.

Police officers hold the power to make observations. A person setting down a beer when they see a cop car roll by, people drinking who look too young to be doing so, many instances could allow an officer access to a residence.

“If someone has been identified to have been at your party, there is reasonable expectation that you should know that person was at your party and can be held liable,” Reger said.

Mayor Quinn also stresses the importance of people coming forward to cite any unreasonable examples that need to be addressed according to this ordinance.

Receiving a warning does not constitute a first offense of the ordinance.

A citation of an offense must first be convicted, and the maximum fine is $150. If a person is convicted of a second violation, that person may face a $250 fine or a jail sentence. After members of a house are issued a first offense, the landlord is notified and must take some action to resolve the issue. Then, if the same house is issued a second offense, the landlord will also be held liable.

IFC Liability Awareness Chairman Mike Kirk said this ordinance has been implemented to get landlords to help solve these issues, and he trusts the law enforcement to be reasonable.

“Out of control parties and the disruption of neighborhoods are issues that need to be addressed,” he said. “These problems have been in existence and we want to find the solution.”

Kent and Connie Strange attended the forum as a neighbor and landlord of several houses.

“People ask us what we expect by living in a college town,” Strange said. “We expect a good neighborhood and respect. A party doesn’t have to get stupid or out of control.”

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