Have you ever been to a party that’s gotten out of hand? Everyone is having a good time and suddenly the police arrive to state that the noise level is just too high.
In situations like these, police will often make contact with the owner of the house and inform them that the noise level needs to go down or issue the owner a citation. When police have to issue that citation, no one is really that much worse off. Besides, if a person hosts a party that gets too loud, they should be the ones to suffer the consequences, right?
Not so, says a new city ordinance that is being proposed by the Orange City Council. The broad language of the ordinance extends potential liability not just to the host of the party, but to the actual guests as well. Is this potential Orange ordinance unfair?
More Than Just a Buzz-Kill
Originally, the bill proposed by Orange County Republican Fred Whitaker only targeted the hosts of “a party at which there is loud and unruly conduct and/or to permit underage drinking.”1 Revisions to the bill have severely broadened its scope. Now, the language of the ordinance allows for a violation to be issued to any person “present at, attend[ing] or participat[ing]” in that party in Orange.
That means that guests can be in violation of the ordinance even if they are not acting irresponsibly or adding to the noise level. In fact, under the broad language, a person who was simply present when the police arrived but who might not have even been an actual guest could also be in violation of the ordinance.
What’s even more troubling is that, unlike a normal noise violation that results in a citation, a violation of the proposed ordinance could result in a misdemeanor charge. Unlike a citation, a misdemeanor conviction stays on your record and your disclosure of the conviction is required on most job applications. The proposed law is targeting young people, especially college students, and could potentially lead to having a criminal record just for being at a party.
The proposed ordinance also increases liability for property owners renting to individuals who throw these large parties in Orange. Under the ordinance, if more than two violations occur within a year, property owners could be forced to pay high fines.
Overly Broad and Legally Flawed
Advocates of the ordinance say that it is needed in order to help crack down on the frequent house parties in Orange. However, laws against drinking in public, urinating in public, underage drinking, and extremely loud disturbances already exist for when partying crosses the line.
While the ordinance may sound like a good idea to some, the negatives clearly outweigh the potential benefits. Police already have laws on the books that allow them to control large and unruly parties, and until those laws are proven ineffective, broader laws should be approached with caution.
Many legal experts believe that the ordinance would not stand up against legal challenges that would almost certainly follow if it were passed. Should the Orange City Council really be spending their time working on ordinances that are unnecessary, overly broad, and legally flawed? You be the judge.
Please share your thoughts about making laws against partying in the comments section below.
1. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/party-708776-loud-ordinance.html href=”#ref1″>↩