Nanny State

Anti-Partying Law Turns Innocent Kids Into Criminals

Expanded ordinance criminalizes kids for merely showing up to a loud party

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Orange County, Calif., Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker got into GOP politics because of his "belief in individual liberty, limited government and a free market," according to the party's web site. Yet his latest actions as an Orange city councilman show little regard for liberty, governmental limits or the Constitution's "right to peaceably assemble."

His support of an expanded party ordinance that criminalizes kids who merely show up at a loud party is an example of something I've seen repeatedly in my coverage of municipal government: Officials who claim to believe in liberty in general, yet who don't see the inconsistency as they impose specific laws that expand government power in troubling ways.

The Orange ordinance is designed to combat "loud and unruly conduct" and underage drinking. As it currently exists, the law seems reasonable enough, given that the old-town area abuts a major university. Officials say they need a way to disperse parties that have begun to resemble scenes from John Belushi's "Animal House."

But on a 5-0 vote, the City Council is transforming a reasonable statute into something heavy handed. The new measure must still be approved on a second reading next month.

Currently, it's "unlawful for a host to knowingly hold or allow a party at which there is loud and unruly conduct and/or to permit underage drinking."  If you host a party that becomes out of control, you might receive a citation. But the revised ordinance adds this line: "It is unlawful and a violation of this chapter for any person to be present at, attend or participate in a party where loud or unruly conduct is taking place."

Let's say you go to a person's house, or are delivering something or just passing through. The party gets loud and the police are called. Under this ordinance, you would be breaking the law. We aren't talking about bad behaviors like public urination or underage drinking, which already are illegal. We're talking about merely being present at a too-loud party.

Moreover, this would not just be an infraction like a parking ticket. Violations "shall constitute a misdemeanor," according to the city's ordinance. Some job applications ask if a person has been convicted of any crime. Should college kids be tagged with diminished job prospects simply for being at a party? These citations will typically be pleaded down to infractions, but this is still problematic.

"If someone has the risk of something bad happening to them, they'll think twice about being there," Whitaker told me. The goal is to discourage kids from attending loud parties. Currently, he added, it's too easy for the party hosts to evade responsibility. By allowing the police to cite partygoers, it provides pressure for people to turn in the party's hosts.

That may be so, but this is fundamentally unjust and legally problematic. University of California Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky said the measure is vulnerable to a challenge: "This creates liability just for being there even if the person is doing nothing else."

And since when is our system designed to impose sentences and fines on people as a way to pressure them into pointing the fingers at others? Whitaker touted an aspect of the measure that gives private citizens an expanded right to sue their neighbors where parties take place, which is an odd approach for a leader of a party that targets lawsuit abuse.

Orange Councilman Mike Alvarez assured me the police will only use this new measure to clamp down on mega-parties with hundreds of students in attendance. But nothing in the statute applies such limits. It's unlikely, but one could—under the statute's broad wording—face a misdemeanor for a too-loud child's birthday party. Alvarez said the police aren't doing enough under the current law. Then what's the point in adding new laws without first enforcing the old ones? There are many other possible approaches that are less troubling, from a civil-liberties perspective.

Although an absentee owner can't face criminal charges for a party, landlords can face fines. As a landlord myself, I know how limited I am in controlling what goes on after tenants lease my home. The existing ordinance punishes party throwers for more than one "loud and unruly" party in a 10-day period. The new ordinance puts a two-party-a-year limit on the books. If that is violated, property owners could be forced to pay police costs, which can be quite hefty in a world of six-figure police salaries and mega-pensions.

"This will never withstand legal challenge as it violates the Bill of Rights' guarantee of freedom of assembly," said former Orange Councilman Denis Bilodeau. Now a board member of the Orange Tax Payers Association, he said the group plans a challenge. But it shouldn't take a lawsuit to convince elected officials—especially Republicans who claim to believe in due process and liberty—to put the kibosh on this noxious measure. 

NEXT: Tibor Machan, a Founding Editor of Reason, RIP

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  1. the police will only use this new measure

    rage inducing…

    1. “But the revised ordinance adds this line: “It is unlawful and a violation of this chapter for any person to be present at, attend or participate in a party where loud or unruly conduct is taking place.””

      Not just is the pizza delivery guy in violation, but, technically, the cop who breaks up the party is in violation. But, don’t worry, the police assure us that they will use their discretion.

      1. Well, it’s not like it’s the Fullerton PD responding to someone suffering delusions.

  2. Officials who claim to believe in liberty in general, yet who don’t see the inconsistency as they impose specific laws that expand government power in troubling ways.

    Yeah, it’s called “lying” and “being a politician”. Anyone who believes a fucking word that comes out of a politician’s mouth is a moron, and if they don’t only look at the politician’s actions instead, they’re a moron squared. Possibly cubed.

    1. In a democracy, voters elect the authoritarian dictators they deserve.

      1. It’s Orange County … They probably deserve worse.

    2. How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.

    3. Just proves that H Beam Piper was right.

    4. Are you insinuating that just because his party advocates theft, robbery and asset forfeiture, the elected official would stoop to actual lying?

  3. And since when is our system designed to impose sentences and fines on people as a way to pressure them into pointing the fingers at others?

    Prosecutors have been doing this for years. Plus, your liberty has always been a small price to pay for law enforcement convenience.

  4. What about my liberty to keep those kids off my gotdang lawn?

    1. thats fine. this law would enable you to keep those kids off of *their* lawn, which is an injustice

  5. Orange County, Calif., Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker got into GOP politics because of his “belief in individual liberty, limited government and a free market,” according to the party’s web site.

    What he says.

    Yet his latest actions as an Orange city councilman show little regard for liberty, governmental limits or the Constitution’s “right to peaceably assemble.”

    What he does.

    Officials who claim to believe in liberty in general, yet who don’t see the inconsistency as they impose specific laws that expand government power in troubling ways.

    Your troubling asssertion that saying one thing and doing another constitutes an inconsistency while you yourself hint that your are aware of the difference between stated preferences and revealed preferences.

  6. Although an absentee owner can’t face criminal charges for a party, landlords can face fines.

    No conceivable knock-on effects there, no sir.

  7. Is it limited to residences?

    What if I attend a loud and unruly political rally?

    Car show?

    Pick-up game of football?

    Neighborhood block party?

    LAN party?

    Work party?

    What a bunch of fucks.

  8. Obviously unconstitutional, but the problem is the lag time in-between law’s passage, and the court’s invalidation.

    I propose that every legislator who votes for a particular measure that is ultimately overturned as unconstitutional should have 10% of his salary confiscated each time it happens, and be forced to do a 5,000-word essay on the particular relevant sections of the Consitution he attempted to infringe.

    Problem Solved!

    1. I agree in principle, but your “penalty” is too light. How about 50% the first time, removal the second?

      Also, a public 5,000-word essay on the particular relevant sections of the Constitution *that permit the proposed legislation* should be required *before* voting.

      1. I like the cut of your jib.

      2. Yeah, but now the onus is on us to read the stupid essay. No one is going to do that. I am much more in favor of public caning of politicians who misbehave. Football halftime show, caner chosen by lottery, lottery money goes to public budget. Fun for the whole family. And keep the marching band as backing music.

        1. We could wipe out the entire National Debt selling THOSE lottery tickets.

    2. 10% of their salary and a 5K word essay is a piss poor substitute for tar and feathers, IMNSHO.

      -jcr

    3. Problem not solved. Not until we implement the New Texas solution, the Court of Political Justice.

      The Court comes into play after a politician is beaten or killed, not to try the person who did the beating or killing, but the politician to see if he got what he deserved.

  9. At least give the partygoers time to disperse, like with the Riot Act.

    1. This may be a blessing in disguise. Police raided an acid punch party in Austin Texas and loaded up the Black Marias with potheads. While booking the disheveled hippies, someone noticed their last names coincided alarmingly with those of senators and representatives in the nearby State House. For at least the next decade nobody dared raid hippie parties or pick on patrons of Soap Creek Saloon weaving homeward at 5 miles an hour.

  10. Town and gown bullshit. “Take that, source of our jobs and municipal prosperity!”

    1. Dey tuk ur property valyewz!

  11. Every time I convince myself that the “anti-fun” crowd is majority progs now, along comes another so-con Republican to show me the error of my ways.

    “Ordered Liberty” indeed.

    1. My speculation is that he’s not getting orders from SoCon Central on this issue, instead he’s getting angry calls from his constituents: “I have to go to work in the morning, and these [expletive deleted] students are keeping me awake with their noise!”

      I bet these complaints come from people of a wide variety of political views.

      Unless SoCons are overrepresented among the population which has to go to work in the morning?

      1. I’d love to see a breakdown of ideology by employment (including field and employer type)

      2. In Orange, CA? SoCons could very well be overrepresented.

      3. I’m sure this isn’t #1 on the “so con” priority list, but it’s not something they would categorically oppose, either.

  12. Like I said yesterday, we’re terrible.

  13. So… quinceaneras…

  14. I will fight for my right to party.

    1. Party Libertarian! would make a nice bumper sticker, and an even better T-shirt…

  15. I’ll just ask again: what person has ever sought public office with the intent of reducing the power and scope of that office and/or the larger body that office was part of?

    People feign surprise when some alleged proponent of limited govt wins election and then does the opposite. I have sold more oceanfront land in Tennessee to people like that than can be remembered.

    1. what person has ever sought public office with the intent of reducing the power and scope of that office and/or the larger body that office was part of?

      Ron Paul, Justin Amash, Rand Paul, Gary Johnson, and possibly Ronald Reagan.

      There aren’t many, but they exist.

      -jcr

  16. What happened to: the cops roll around, tell the kids to knock it off, and nothing else happened?

    1. “I’m paying taxes to see some skulls cracked, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get what I paid for”

    2. The kids felt they were being micro aggressed and kept the music on.

      1. “Hey, officer, i thought you said you didn’t want to come back here.”

  17. Officials who claim to believe in liberty in general, yet who don’t see the inconsistency as they impose specific laws that expand government power in troubling ways.

    There’s a saying I recall from a friend of my grandfather’s. It went something like this – you can shove a log up someone else’s ass and it doesn’t hurt a bit. Shove a toothpick up your own and it’s excruciating.

    I think the same general principle applies here. Sure, everyone’s up for liberty for themselves and people and things they like. Those other people, well you rarely even noticed that their liberty was infringed.

    1. Upper extremity sprain/strain is a real thing.

  18. I generally don’t like parties and who likes kids?

    So I am torn

    But generally wouldn’t the ultimate libertarian stand be to cease public funding for the local university?

    The kids disperse to other locales for their 4 year party break

    1. It’s a private school

      1. Most of which receive tons of public funding.

      2. Ah, I dont know anything about the local geography, I just assumed that it was UCSD

  19. “If someone has the risk of something bad happening to them, they’ll think twice about being there,” Whitaker told me.

    “There” being Orange County, at least.

    The lack of self-awareness is incredible.

    1. That’s rich coming from you.

  20. Orange Councilman Mike Alvarez assured me the police will only use this new measure to clamp down on mega-parties with hundreds of students in attendance. But nothing in the statute applies such limits.

    Never mind the fact that it is unrealistic to put down on paper a qualification or standard for a loud party so as to differentiate it from a compliant party. Is the police going to have a checklist to determine the level of compliance? Is there going to be a limit on guest attendance? Would cops be compelled to count the number of guests if that’s the case?

    You can see why these ordinances are purposefully vague in their wording; you can perfectly ascribe this to intellectual laziness. Which is one more reason why these ordinances are prescriptions for abuses and tyranny.

    1. So looking forward to kids calling in a loud party complaint the next time Officer Friendly has a few buddies over for a barbeque.

      1. In which case Friendly could have Iron Maiden reprising their Powerslave tour and a thousand attendees spilling out in the street and it will somehow still be in compliance…

  21. God I want to kick so many people in the dick it’s unreal.

    1. These masturbation allusions are……

  22. Wouldn’t banning kids be the more direct route?

    Of course that is against the Constitution, but Libertopoia sounds all the more appealing if anyone under the age of 27 or so were banned.

    1. You need to ban people over 65 too though.

  23. #NoBystanderIsInnocent

  24. Apparently if you’re at a loud party and someone commits murder you’re guilty of murder too because you were there.

  25. Republicans, democrats with bibles.

  26. Lavrenti Beria was a big advocate of the Administrative State:
    “Show me the Man, and I’ll find the Crime.”

  27. We know the political affiliation of Fred Whitaker, but what of the other four members of the Council?
    Or, in the face of not finding any mention of such, should we just assume they’re all Democrats of the Progressive Persuasion?

  28. Was Comrade Stalin a misunderstood libertarian? He took a dim view of anti-Party elements.

  29. Anything goes if you’re battling the scourge of underage drinking.

  30. Typical American double standards.

  31. Now America can start locking up white 19 year olds at the same rate as they’re jailing black 19 year olds.

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  33. Yes, undoubtedly the Founding Fathers intended that the people be able “peaceably to assemble” for the purpose of letting teenagers party-down. Surely nothing to do with petitioning the Government for a redress of grievances. No, it was party all the time by those wacky Framers.
    I get heartily sick of idiots who fail to realize, including idiots on the federal bench, that the Bill of Rights was included to protect people’s rights with respect to the ability to be politically active and not fear government trying to stifle that, not day to day efforts, like going to a shindig.
    That provisions, like the 4th A, protects criminals, as well as the honest is a sideline but the overriding concern, at that time, was being able to do what had been prohibited and enforced by the previous regime.

    1. I’m pretty sure the Framers knew the word “political”. Why do you suppose it isn’t it in the First Amendment qualifying everything in the manner you desire?

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  35. blatant revenue generation policing… all that law does is make ppl hate cops more.

  36. With the millions of laws already on our statute books what’s one more? Experts already estimate each citizen breaks at least 4 laws every day.

  37. A year ago it looked like the country was moving in a “live and let live” direction. Now it looks like that was just a phase the country was going through and the authoritarians are reclaiming control. Very disappointing.

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  41. “It is unlawful and a violation of this chapter for any person to be present at, attend or participate in a party where loud or unruly conduct is taking place.”

    Let’s say you go to a person’s house, or are delivering something or just passing through. The party gets loud and the police are called./blockquote

    Restrictive interpretation. Those who are there make it impossible for the police to determine who actually created the noise. Punishment should only apply to those who enter a party that is already loud. So the police would have to prove their presence, and that there already was noise for the prior “5 minutes”. (I agree that this is generally not worth a kind of permanent record.)

    Alternatively: near-strict liability for the property owner.

    Criticism appreciated. I’m not a fan of noise that my property is subjected to. Bias.

    1. No need to critize the quoting.

  42. RE: Anti-Partying Law Turns Innocent Kids Into Criminals

    As we all know, kids are not supposed to have fun.
    They’re supposed to be indoctrinated into the mind think of socialist and progressive beliefs.
    Why would 19 year old college students want to have fun partying instead of reading “Das Kapital” or reciting the wisdom of Saint Stalin?

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