By Elizabeth Childers, Online Editor
College students are often portrayed as excessive drinkers and partiers, regardless of the fact most are underage.
One question these students should ask before going out for a night of drinking: what happens when you get caught?
At Ohio Wesleyan University, students are subject to Delaware County and Ohio State laws.
OWU students can find these ordinances in the Walter H. Drane Codified Ordinance. Ordinance 509.03 deals with drunk and disorderly conduct, a charge that can be brought on a student should they be picked up by the Delaware County Police Department.
Ordinance 509.03 states, “No person, while voluntarily intoxicated, shall do either of the following: In a public place or in the presence of two or more persons, engage in conduct likely to be offensive or to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm to persons of ordinary sensibilities, which conduct the offender, if he were not intoxicated, should know is likely to have such effect on others; engage in conduct or create a condition which prevents a risk of physical harm to himself or another, or to the property of another.”
The full ordinance, along with details about other forms of disorderly conduct, can be found online at conwaygreene.com/Delaware.
“Really, it’s a catch-all offense,” Captain Bruce Pijanowski said. “The bigger ones we’ll see are like people passed out on a lawn somewhere. We can’t leave them there, we have to take care of them, and that’s against the law.”
Pijanowski also said it is the police’s responsibility to keep people safe.
If someone is having a hard time walking down the street, DPD will stop to ensure they are able to get home without harm to themselves or others, especially if there’s a possibility of an intoxicated person stepping in front of an oncoming car.
Students who are underage also should know the consequences of excessive drinking and partying.
“If you draw attention to yourself, we’re going to stop and check you out,” Pijanowski said. “If we stop you staggering down the street and you’re underage, you’re going to be arrested, and that can go one of two ways.
“One is a charge of prohibition, which is a first degree misdemeanor with a thousand dollar fine, possible six month in jail. That is the max, which rarely ever happens.
“The other is an unclassified misdemeanor, which is a higher fine, but it doesn’t fall in the misdemeanor range. We’ll do that the first time, but after that you’re going to catch the higher offense.”
Junior Tony Buzalka had such an experience with DPD last semester. On two occasions, Buzalka was cited for drunk and disorderly conduct and underage consumption.
“(The) first time, I had gone streaking around the church across the street from where I live,” Buzalka said. “On the way back, I tripped and hit my head on the door. I had been drinking, but not that much. Next thing I remember, I was walking down Spring Street…
“I saw someone fall down and scrape their face. I went and tried to help him get back in the house.
“When we got him onto the couch, he wasn’t responsive, and it looked like he might’ve had alcohol poisoning…I did not have my phone with me, and I saw a police cruiser.
“I waved them down, told them someone needed medical attention. Afterwards, the officer cuffed me and…issued me a citation for prohibition.”
Buzalka’s citation ended with a plea at a pre-trial hearing, where he admitted to the crime and asked for alcohol diversion, a program for first time offenders that includes twenty hours of community service and an online alcohol education test.
After he completed the diversion program, the offense was erased from his record.
However, a few weeks later, Buzalka was once again cited for underage drinking, and this time with drunk and disorderly conduct.
After a party where he said, “I definitely knew I had too much to drink,” Buzalka was walking students back to campus when he passed out on the side of the road.
“A student saw me lying on the side of the street and kicked me to try and get me up,” Buzalka said. “The people in the house behind us saw this happening and called an ambulance.”
Buzalka later woke up in a hospital, where the nurse told him what had happened and an officer issued him his second citation.
This time, the court was less lenient, and Buzalka received a $630 fine as well as probation for the next year.
“I have to check in with my probation officer once a month. I can’t leave the state without getting permission, can’t change residences, and I have to do forty hours of community service,” Buzalka said. “I also have to get a drug and alcohol assessment test at a local medical center to see if I have a dependency on alcohol.”
Buzalka also said he felt shame concerning the whole ordeal, especially for ending up in the hospital the second time.
“It’s upsetting that underage drinking seems like such a heinous crime, since the substance eventually comes legal,” Buzalka said. “The way they force you to pay so much money and jump through so many hoops, I just think it’s ridiculous.
“The demeanor of the officers in this town is appalling. They were rude, and I think they enjoy going on a power trip…They seemed to enjoy busting people for underage drinking.”
Pijanowski said the police don’t necessarily target college students simple because they’re college students.
“We are at the bars downtown because that is a source of problems on nights where there’s a lot of alcohol flowing,” Pijanowski said. “The real issue we have with students is in populated areas where we have to watch.
“Anytime there’s a lot of people and a lot of alcohol, we’re going to be on that spot. I know there’s the perception that we sit on Clancey’s, and we do because we have to watch that area.
“There’s a couple other bars in town we do the same thing to.”
Pijanowski also said in some instances DPD resists making arrests, such as in Buzalka’s case, where after he was cuffed for the first offense, an officer asked him if there was a sober friend to whom he could release Buzalka.
“I think our relationship (with OWU) is good,” Pijanowski said. “A lot of students would think we harass college students, but that’s not the case.
“We have a very good working relationship with Public Safety. We don’t go on campus for things we don’t need to be on campus for. We generally go when Public Safety calls us to be on campus.”