Editor’s note: This commentary is part of the Emerald’s and ASUO Legal Services’ ongoing efforts to assist students through education as well as representation. ASUO Legal Services’ attorneys are licensed to practice in the state of Oregon. Information disseminated in this article does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. For legal advice, contact an attorney licensed in your state. You should not make legal hiring decisions based upon brochures, advertising or other promotional materials.

As an attorney for ASUO Legal Services, I am aware that the majority of arrests and citations of students are for alcohol-related offenses. These offenses include minor in possession, allowing or furnishing alcohol, driving under the influence of intoxicants and Oregon Liquor Control Commission violations for mishandling a keg. Many students have expressed frustration over receiving citations for conduct which did not seem, at the time, to violate a law. They are also frustrated with the aggressive and sometimes condescending attitude of the Eugene Police.

The definition of what actions constitute these crimes and violations is increasingly widened by the overzealous Eugene Police Department “Party Patrol,” which has stated a policy of “zero tolerance on underage drinking.” It is not an exaggeration to state that you act at your peril if you are present where alcohol is served outside of a commercial establishment.

For example:

* A sober designated driver arrived at a party to retrieve his friends and was cited for minor in possession when he was seen removing beer bottles from his friends’ hands so he could get them into his car.

* A person who was 21 threw a party with signs posted stating that those under 21 were not allowed. The “Party Patrol” stormed the gates and found a minor who snuck into the party and grabbed a beer. The host was cited with a Class A misdemeanor of furnishing alcohol to a minor, which can result in a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.

* A minor was asleep in bed while her roommates watched a movie. Police appeared at the door looking for someone who did not live there. Once the front door was open, the police insinuate themselves into the house where the minor was forcibly awakened by the police and cited for minor in possession when she admitted to having had a beer earlier.

* A 25-year-old bought a keg and signed an affidavit stating the keg would be at his house. The next weekend, he took the keg with its remaining contents to another party to finish the beer. The “Party Patrol” raided the party and he was cited for the Class A misdemeanor of false swearing because the keg was not at the original address.

While these examples of citations may not hold up in court (remembering the USA Patriot Act has not yet eroded the presumption of innocence), the cited parties now bear the burden of numerous court appearances, possible trials and the threat of jail and/or fines of hundreds of dollars if they lose.

In addition to the cost and inconvenience associated with these experiences, students are reporting increasing amounts of physical contact from police, including being made to stand in the cold for hours in handcuffs and being subject to choke holds, take-downs and other uses of force. Students come to see me with bruises, chipped teeth and head injuries. Students are reporting that the OLCC has begun confiscating personal property associated with the consumption of alcohol, including music equipment and stereos.

The moral of this story is for students to exhibit extreme caution around underage drinkers. If you are underage, do not drink or allow yourself to be around places where alcohol is served. If you are over 21, do not allow any minors on the premises and adhere closely to OLCC requirements for the use of kegs.

Be careful out there.

Laura Fine is an attorney with ASUO Legal Services.

Her opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Emerald.