City officials are moving closer to having more power to kill the buzz of students at the University of Iowa, and some worry it could violate their right to due process.
Police in Iowa City, Iowa say they're having trouble busting house parties of college students because the kids have a new weapon -- not answering the door.
“We need to solve the problem in the neighborhood -- this is the community’s concern,” Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said. “If they [students] don’t answer the door or are told to, then there’s nothing we can do about it.”
The town is home to the University of Iowa, recently ranked as the No. 2 party school in the nation by the Princeton Review, and ranked No. 14 by College Prowler. The problem according to city officials is students not opening the door when cops come knocking responding to noise complaints, and police can't enter without permission unless they have a search warrant, which could take a couple hours to get. But the City Council might change the local laws to create harsher penalties.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports:
The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night on the first consideration of an ordinance amending the city’s nuisance rental property regulations to allow for a civil citation for disorderly house when occupants do not answer the door.
Currently it’s handled with a criminal complaint, but occupants — typically college students — are increasingly refusing to open the door for officers, city officials said.
Under the proposed ordinance, if cops responded to a reported rowdy house party and no one answers the door, they'd be able to tell the city’s housing inspectors it's a "disorderly house" and all tenants could be penalized. Meaning if your roommate has a party when you're not home and they don't answer the door when cops try to bust it, you could be held equally responsible.
Currently, refusing to open the door for police is a criminal citation, and only the people present at the party would be charged. But the new ordinance would be a civil infraction, and all tenants would be cited. The first offense in a civil infraction would carry a $750 fine, and subsequent offenses bring a $1,000 fine, according to the Gazette.
KCRG reports Greg Bal, supervising attorney for the University of Iowa Student Legal Services, believes this type of punishment being issued to people who aren't present at the party would violate someone's right to due process.
Iowa City has tried to sober up their collegiate population before. They fought for a long time to change a city ordinance to only allow people who are 21 or older into bars, successfully making that change affirmative through a ballot initiative in 2010. They've also been conducting a "party patrol" to take a more proactive approach to stopping raucous house parties.
Last year, the Iowa City police issued 244 disorderly house citations, and 273 were issued in all of 2010. Iowa City has a population of 67,862 as of 2010.