On Saturday night, a law enforcement officer threatened to take me to jail. All I did was ask a question. For what violation could he have arrested me? For being drunk in public? Too bad I am 21 years old and have the legal right to consume alcohol. I had only had one drink. Would he have given me a Breathalyzer if I had asked for one? From observation, I would say no way! Could he have arrested me for administering alcohol to minors? The keg was not registered to me and thus not my legal responsibility to stand watch. Would he have arrested me for disturbing the peace? Sorry, but my voice does not carry 100 feet and thus have the capacity to disturb the legal distance away needed in order to report a disturbance; nor, I add, was there a filed complaint asking for them to regulate on my ass.
The police were there for a reason. They were there to give us a noise warning on a phoned-in complaint they received. We turned off the music with no reservations. Then they proceeded to take our kegs. I asked the officer why he had come to give us a warning when I heard the officer say that they could not even tell anyone to be quiet – not even a warning – unless we were willing to file and sign a formal complaint. He said he could take us to jail tonight; do you want to go to jail? No, of course not. However, I strongly speculate that if I had responded “yes,” that I would have been shoved into the police “paddy” wagon that was parked outside my house – no questions asked.
Then, once the dozen or so officers left our apartment complex (which was covered so as not to violate the new visible-keg law), we saw them walk into the next driveway where another band was warming up rather quietly. They told them that the same person had called a noise complaint for them at their address, yet the phone-in complainer lived two blocks away. I don’t mind the law as long as the law does not break itself.
The same officer told me that the kegs were taken as evidence, but evidence can be returned to you. So why did the officers return the kegs to the liquor store? Did they get our money for the four unopened kegs they confiscated? Did the liquor store sell those kegs again for a double profit? These are all questions we need to ask and those for which we will most likely get wish-you-would-have-told-us-that-before-when-we-came-in-to-register-and-ask-about-legalities-three-times-prior-to-the-party answers.
The reason I am writing this is because had the officer taken me to jail, I would have had to go to court. I would have given the same explanation. I doubt, however, that I would have been recognized as an individual with a valid testimony but as just another I.V. shit-disturber. I may be a shit-disturber, but I am NOT a criminal. This is a terrible case for the freedom of speech and an unfortunate violation of the rights of we students who, despite popular belief, do manage to endure and succeed academically and socially at a highly regarded university. Free speech is my form of getting justice since we do not always receive it in our own town.
Valerie Ibarra is a senior political science major.