Drop That Red Cup! City Criminalizes College Parties

A misdemeanor to be 'present at, attend or participate in a loud or unruly gathering.'


College life may include studying late in the library, going to class in pajamas, ultimate Frisbee, or engaging in an age-old college tradition: the college house party.

"We've had a couple here, My roommate really likes the Risky Business theme." says Nick Quandt, a resident of Orange, California, and a student at Chapman University. "Sometimes you'll get back to the house around nine o'clock and there'll be a couple freshman at your house that think the party starts at nine o'clock and nobody else gets there till eleven."

The parties happen as often as you'd expect in a college town, but not everyone is happy about them. Orange residents at a city council meeting April 12, 2016, described college students urinating and vomiting in front yards that were not their own and noise that went well into the night. Even city council members like Fred Whitaker have experienced the behavior.

"You had probably 400 kids that were in a backyard about 3 blocks from my house," said Whitaker, who along with the rest of the city council helped to pass a new ordinance that tightens rules on loud and unruly parties which, according to Whitaker, are so bad they affect neighbors' ability to enjoy their own property. He says it come down to the question of "How do you create incentives to not have people affect other people's rights?"

Violates the Constitution

The ordinance sounds reasonable on its face (Who wants someone peeing in their front yard?), until you look at the details. The ordinance makes it unlawful for any person to be "present at, attend or participate in a loud or unruly gathering," and to do so in a way that "contributes" to the gathering. According to city code, the punishment could be hundreds of dollars worth of fines and the violation amounts to a misdemeanor.

"There are important consequences to a misdemeanor conviction or any criminal record," says Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Irvine, Law School. "This isn't gentle by any means."

Wayne Winthers, the city attorney for Orange gave a little more insight into what contributing might mean at the city council meeting, April 12, saying "The individual has to be doing something more than just walking by at the time […] Some indication that they are contributing to the party. They may be with their red cup or they're jumping up and down to the music or whatever it might be, but, something so an officer has to observe something more than just mere presence."

So holding a red cup or dancing at a loud or unruly party could mean you are guilty of a crime? The ordinance didn't seem specific enough to answer "no" to this sort of question. "It's just so vague," says Quandt. "And also […] blatantly directed at college students."

"I think the reason that you don't want it to be that specific is because the more specific you get it, the more you can game the system," says Whitaker. Instead, the ordinance gives discretion to the officers on the scene to decide if someone is participating in the party. "It's a 'when you see it, you know it' [situation]," says Whitaker.

"To say we will leave it to the discretion of the officer to decide what's unruly by itself says this ordinance violates the constitution," says Chemerinsky, who also points out that part of the problem with the ordinance is that it is not clearly written, "It says 'to do so in a manner that contributes to the loud or unruly gathering.' I assume just by being there you're contributing to the gathering. Is more required than that? The ordinance doesn't say."

That lack of specificity means practically anyone could be guilty of a criminal behavior. Chemerinsky says that under the constitution, any law must be clear as to what is allowed and what is prohibited. "In fact one of the concerns is that officers would have too much discretion and be able to use it in a discriminatory way."

Broken Windows Theory

Whitaker says the ordinance comes from the Broken Windows Theory of law enforcement, which suggests that stopping petty crime helps stop major crime. The theory was first made popular in a 1982 article in The Atlantic by professors George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson.

But constitutional law scholars, criminologists and even police oversight institutions who have looked at the theory since the 1980s are skeptical. In fact, a study released in June 2016 from the Office of the Inspector General for the New York Police Department (OIG-NYPD) found that between 2010 and 2015 there was no empirical evidence showing a clear link between enforcement of low-level petty crimes and a drop in the felony crime rate. Further, the OIG-NYPD worried that bring these low-level offenders into the criminal justice system would have negative effects on the rest of their lives. Chemerinsky says enforcement of the Orange party ordinance according to the Broken Windows Theory would do the same thing.

"There are lifelong consequences to [individuals] ending up with criminal records even if it is for minor offenses," says Chemerinsky who also adds that there is often a discriminatory effect of the Broken Windows Theory. "It's often individuals of color, African Americans and Latinos, who get charged with these minor crimes and suffer the lifelong consequences of the convictions."

The Orange Police Department (OPD) said that an independent report has never been commissioned by the city to see if the Broken Windows Theory was working there. However, they did win an award in 2015 named after James Q. Wilson, one of the professors who originated the theory. The award, presented by a local policing organization, was won by the OPD for its approach to dealing with people with mental health issues.

Freedom and Responsibility

Chapman University said in a statment that the school "and its students are members of the Orange community, and the University continually encourages our students to respect the community and act as good neighbors. Chapman supports the efforts brought forth by the citizens of the City of Orange regarding this ordinance. The University has served as an active participant in discussions surrounding this topic through our Neighborhood Advisory Committee and has also encouraged our students to utilize their collective voice to address City Council directly with their concerns."

Chapman students have spoken at city council meetings during public comment sections, and it isn't as if they are completely oblivious to the problems their parties sometimes produce. "There are some parties that get out of hand and those should be contained," says Quandt. "[But] Having friends over during college, you're supposed to interact in a social environment. That's how you develop, that's what college is about, and what the ordinance is doing is really restricting that."

Whitaker says he thinks the ordinance creates a world where people will be free to have peace in their own homes. "Freedom depends upon everybody having responsibility and acting responsibly."

"Everyone should act responsibly," says Chemerinsky. "The question is when should the criminal law come in."

The law goes into effect this week after the Orange city council unanimously passed the ordinance.

Aproximately 9:07.

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  1. Some indication that they are contributing to the party. They may be with their red cup

    These euphemisms ....

    1. Don't worry, Rich: The cops will use their discretion so there is NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!

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  2. present at, attend or participate in a loud or unruly gathering,

    So they basically made protesting illegal. Nice.

    1. And parades... and church choirs... pretty much everything.

      1. Yep - that language is so general, if anyone wants to screw over a large gathering, they can.

        1. Can and will. Selectively, of course.

  3. OT: Failing Illinois Health Insurance Co-Op to Be Shut Down

    An Illinois health insurance co-op with 49,000 policyholders in the state has become the latest casualty among a dwindling group of nonprofit alternative insurers set up under the Affordable Care Act.

    Illinois regulators took steps on July 12 to shut down Land of Lincoln Health, a 3-year-old startup that lost $90 million in 2015 and more than $17 million through May 31.

    Illinois Department of Insurance officials announced they are seeking a court order allowing the state to take over Land of Lincoln Health and prepare the company for liquidation.

    Last month, Dowling tried an unusual maneuver to help the company by blocking it from paying a $31.8 million bill to the federal government. Dowling wrote in a June 30 letter to the federal government that she has ordered Land of Lincoln Health not to pay until it gets what it's owed by the feds ? nearly $73 million ? under a separate provision of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

    1. First it's the Party of Lincoln, now it's the Land of Lincoln.

      1. what about Lincoln Continentals??? I ask you...

  4. "How do you create incentives to not have people affect other people's rights?"

    By criminalizing a constitutionally protected liberty, naturally.

  5. What happened to the good old Riot Act?

  6. Whitaker says the ordinance comes from the Broken Windows Theory of law enforcement, which suggests that stopping petty crime helps stop major crime.

    Seems like a misnomer.

    1. He means the Broken Hopes and Dreams Theory.

    2. sooo, DeBlasio's OIG NYPD said there's no evidence...any evidence they even looked? seems like they may have had a pre-determined result

  7. I'm not sure I rely on the cops to have reliable and truthful memories about each and every student they arrest at a bust.

    "Let's see, this one was contributing to the party by holding a cup, this one was on the floor doing really weird dance moves..."

    "I was twitching around because you tased me!"

    "Quiet, you."

      *BLAM!* *BLAM!* *BLAM!* *BLAM!* *BLAM!* *BLAM!* *BLAM!* *BLAM!*

  8. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble , ..."

    Pretty sure this is unconstitutional.

    1. Something something commerce clause....something....general welfare.

      1. Isn't that always the case - general welfare?

        1. Major Dilemma and of course Colonel Klink

    2. Only if the government must adhere to the actual written words, which hasn't been the case for quite some time now.

    3. To be fair, it really is the government's role to set the rules such as: how do you define private property.

      If someone's yard got puked on or the music is so loud that affect the neighbors; these are unwarranted costs to third parties.

      The laws are terrible though (and probably unconstitutional). So it tells me that the members of this particular local government are very bad at their elected roles.

      1. In my experience, ALL local government is very bad at their elected roles.

        I've mentioned on this forum before about the libertarian focus on federal issues while seemingly turning a blind eye to the ubiquitous unconstitutional overreach inherent in state, county and city functions.

        I may get upset at the actions of our federal government. But local ordinances, enforcement of them and other activities have a much more direct affect on my daily life.

        Get on any local blog like "Nextdoor" in your own neighborhood and see how myopic and authoritarian people are and want their cities to be.

    4. Just like the RKBA only applies to the guns in existence when it was passed, the right to peacably assemble only applies to the people in existence when it was passed.

      Geez. Do you even constitution, bro?

      1. Was the fourth amendment revoked?

    5. note the word "peaceably" in the sentence.

      1. Noted. What about it? Do you think that this rule only bans parties that are not peaceful? That's simply false, and if that's all it did, then we wouldn't even need it. Vandalizing other people's property and such is already not allowed, so simply punish people who do so.

        1. Actually, "loud or unruly gathering" seems to rule out "peaceably assemble," but these semantic disagreements are why we have courts, I guess.

          1. It's also totally subjective. I guess we'll let the courts arbitrarily reach a conclusion; that instantly makes things better.

  9. Gearing up for the upcoming kingdom of door-kickers.

  10. Shocker - California leads the country in creative attempts to bypass the constitution.

    1. I know! Ask me how.

      1. tell me is there one simple trick?

  11. This is open-and-shut violation of the right to peaceably assemble. The legislators who enacted that law need to go to jail for violating constitutional rights.

    1. Perhaps. But, never going to happen.

      Have you tried addressing your city council? Do that have that pesky "3 minute rule" for doing so?

      When was the last time we saw the feds putting the bite on silly municipal bodes that try to limit your ability to peaceably assemble for redress of grievance?

    2. or least a kegger...

  12. Drop That Red Cup! City Criminalizes College Parties

    US colleges have been holding American Red Cup themed parties?

  13. Town and gown tension has been around forever.

    Around here we have a new tradition of burning couches during big sporting events (win or lose.) To counter this already illegal activity, the city banned people from having couches on their front porch.

    The city is not what you would call smart or effective.

    1. Taking traditions FROM west virginia only makes the rest of the state look bad.

      Stop it.

      1. Is welfare dependency a tradition?

        1. It has become so, over time...

        2. Ah, come on. You know that is a lie perpetuated by the right wing nuts who want to starve the poor people.

          There is no such thing as welfare moms, queens or dependents. No siree. We cut them off after a couple of years. We just want to help them get on their feet.

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  15. True fact: Denver Mom tells me that I was born in Orange, at Chapman general hospital, the one shown at the beginning of General Hospital. I don't actually remember it, myself, but why would she lie to me?

    1. cause you're ugly & stupid?

  16. Around here we have a new tradition of burning couches during big sporting events (win or lose.) To counter this already illegal activity, the city banned people from having couches on their front porch.

    PROTIP: Move the couch off the porch before setting iy ablaze.

    1. "Professional arsonists used! Do not try this at home."

  17. "To say we will leave it to the discretion of the officer to decide what's unruly by itself says this ordinance violates the constitution," says Chemerinsky,"

    If that is true, why do so many cities use complaint driven, code enforcement for municipal ordinances and get away with it?

    My neighbor parks their boat in their driveway, a violation of city ordinance, and gets away with it while my neighbor on the other side of my house called in a complaint about my boat in my side yard and I was cited with 30 days to correct or face a $1,000/day fine. YES. $1,000/DAY!

    1. If that is true, why do so many cities use complaint driven, code enforcement for municipal ordinances and get away with it?

      Because no one has stopped them yet. If mass surveillance is unconstitutional--which it is--then why does the practice continue? Why does the government violate the constitution in countless ways each day?

      It's not as if the mere fact that something is unconstitutional means that the government isn't capable of doing it. No one is stopping them, so the practices continue.

  18. Fuck those rowdy drunk assholes. Fuck yeah it's a criminal offense. Loud noise in a residential neighborhood. Fucking pissing in your yard, vomiting on your lawn, fucking fucking on your begonias. God damned right you put them in cuffs and give em a record.

  19. if anyone wants to throw a party in that community, i'll buy the beer if you host.

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  21. I wish bastiat's broken window got the attention of James Q Wilson's (whoever the fuck he [or she] is)

  22. "present at, attend or participate in a loud or unruly gathering,"

    BLM "gatherings"?

  23. They just made football games (especially) illegal.

  24. First you let college kids walk around with red cups.
    Next thing you know riots are breaking out in the streets.
    And before you know it - SOMALIA !!!!!!

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