Residents of Isla Vista need to be informed on the definition of what truly is alcohol.
I was approached with this quantitative question at the beginning of this school year (Fall Quarter) when I was celebrating an evening of drinking and being social with my sister and best friend who had come down for the weekend.
We were taking a stroll down the infamous DP, when I, holding two red cups, decided to venture off into a residential property area. I soon found myself abruptly confronted by a gang of I.V.’s finest. One officer quickly grabs one of my cups, smells it and dumps it out. He then proceeds to write me up a ticket for open container. Avoiding confrontation, I waited until the trial date to fire my assault.
You see, what puzzled me the most was that I was pulled over for having two red cups in my hand, and the last time I checked, even an 8 year old can buy red cups without probable cause that they will be used to hold alcohol. Even around my humble apartment, to avoid piling up dishes we use these useful cups to drink juice and milk out of and then dispose of them.
So where was the probable cause, I argued. But even more interesting was when I looked up the definition of alcohol in the CA Business & Professions Code, which states that “Alcoholic beverage” includes alcohol, spirits, liquor, wine, beer and every liquid or solid containing one-half of 1 percent or more alcohol by volume and which is fit for beverage purposes either alone or when diluted, mixed or combined with other substances.
There is nothing in this definition about the smell of the drink, which is mostly used as evidence to cite people for alcohol infractions. Something like a Coors Cutters, a “non alcoholic drink,” doesn’t fit under this definition but sure enough has the smell of alcohol. When going into court, I questioned the officer who had cited me if he was familiar with this code defining alcohol, and he wasn’t. So, in fact, he had no proof that what I held in my non-alcoholic labeled cup was alcohol. In the end, I was congratulated by the judge for being so well prepared but was still stuck with the open container fine, despite the lack of alcoholic evidence.
They knew if they were to let me go on this one it would set a precedent for all of I.V. that would impede their ability to control. People of Isla Vista and this nation, our rights have been violated and are being violated on a daily basis. In this case, it was NOT proved beyond a reasonable doubt that what I had in my cup was alcohol; there was no probable cause for the initial stop, and in this case, like in other cases, our constitutional rights in our town are being vitiated by the police and courts. Freedom and justice for all? When I open up my eyes, I see the constitution systematically being taken away.
Shaun McHugh is a junior film studies major.