During this year’s Associated Students elections, students will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot initiative to fund a sobering center in Goleta for first-time drunk-in-public offenders, avoiding the costs of a misdemeanor.
The initiative would allocate a $3.75 lock-in fee per student per quarter beginning Summer 2014, which would then gradually decrease to $2.91 by Fall 2018. The funds collected from the fee would go towards operations, facility rental and staffing, according to the fee initiative.
According to A.S. Legal Resource Center attorney Robin Unander, who has been working on bringing a sobering center to the community for many years and called it the center’s “brain child,” the center would serve to cut down on the number of arrests for drunk-in-public citations, keeping students’ records free of misdemeanors and reducing the cost of an arrest.
However, Unander also said a fine would still have to be associated with the sobering center to act as a deterrent to repeat offenders.
“Because the partying in I.V. goes on where people live, there needs to be something in place that tells students ‘You don’t want to do that again if you can avoid it,’” Unander said.
According to Unander, the fines collected for a night spent in the sobering center would help to pay for its operation and the money collected through the fee initiative would only have to be used as a startup cost allowing the center to eventually pay for itself.
Associated Students Internal Vice President Kyley Scarlet said she has been working on the ballot fee initiative since being a senator last year and that students brought to the sobering center would be handled primarily through the school and that a record of their stay will remain private.
“When it goes on your BARC it will not say ‘drunk-in-public,’ it will say something like ‘administrative fee,’” Scarlet said.
Scarlet said that any fee assessed by the Alcohol & Drug Program would be listed on BARC as usual.
A.S. External Vice President for Local Affairs Alex Moore said the fee initiative is unique and has wide-ranging benefits.
“It’s one of the rare opportunities where it’s a win-win-win situation for everyone … I think we actually have something that is straight-up good for everybody,” Moore said.
According to Moore, students would no longer be detained in the main jail in Santa Barbara if the initiative passes. Instead, students would be held in an alternate space primarily occupied by students. Moore said the sheriff’s department would also benefit from the center by not having to drive students downtown, saving valuable time and allowing deputies to spend more time patrolling.
Moore said he thought the benefit to students, as the primary users of the center, would justify the cost of the initiative.
“It’s like insurance,” Moore said. “You’re looking at paying for it right now and you’re like ‘Man, I don’t know if I want to pay for that.’ But the first time your car gets nicked or the first time you get sick, that insurance policy turns into something amazing.”
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.
[Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified A.S. Legal Resource Center attorney Robin Unander as Robin Ulander, her name is in fact Robin Unander.]