Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Guilt By Association the Law in Naperville

TOM RYBARCZYK, CHICAGO TRIBUNE - In the last six months, Julie Beata, 19, said she has received two citations from Naperville police for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both times, said the North Central College freshman, she was picking up underage friends who had had a few drinks at a party. Beata was in violation of Naperville's presence restriction ordinance, said to be the first such law in the nation. The law allows non-drinkers under 21 to be ticketed if they are knowingly in the company of underage people drinking alcohol. . .

Recently, the 7-year-old law has come under fire after police invoked it to cite 47 people, including Beata, at a party near North Central's Naperville campus. . . The incident has raised the ire of some Naperville parents and lawmakers who see the law as discouraging young people from acting responsibly and turning down alcohol when their friends engage in the illegal behavior. Some legal experts question the law's constitutionality. . .

So far this year, Naperville police have issued 68 tickets for presence restriction violations. No accurate record exists for past years, because the City Council changed how police recorded the offense. In past years, the violation was considered an illegal possession of alcohol. . .

At least one local attorney has challenged the law and failed. Wheaton-based attorney Donald Ramsell said he filed a motion a few years ago in front of a DuPage County judge questioning the law on the basis that it violated an underage person's right to association. "It flies in the face of most criminal constitutional law," said Ramsell, a vice chairman of the Illinois State Bar Association's Traffic Law and Court's Council, who is defending a handful of clients ticketed with violating the presence restriction.

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