The Rolla City Council heard a proposal to help our local police department bring the power to the city when it comes to minors in possession.
Currently, the city only has an ordinance making it illegal for minors to purchase or be in possession of alcohol. On Tuesday, Sep. 4, Rolla Chief of Police Sean Fagan made the contrast that state law additionally makes it a crime to have consumed alcohol, with charges made against minors visibly drinking or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than .02 percent.
According to Chief Fagan, minors in Phelps County are charged with having consumed alcohol, but these charges are required to move through the state, since city ordinances don’t address minors being intoxicated.
“With our statute, the minor has to actually be in possession of alcohol…unless it’s in his hands we can’t charge him with it,” Fagan explained. The proposal for the amendment states it is “easier to prove possession by having a teen give a breath sample…then proving that the teen was holding an intoxicating beverage when the police arrived.”
Fagan proposed to the council to amend the city’s ordinance to match the state’s, allowing law enforcement to keep the prosecution of these types of charges within local courts. Fagan added it is much easier for officers to work through municipal courts, rather than the state.
“It’s a lot easier for our policemen because our city courts work with our policemen on their schedule, the state court does not. It’s easier all around for my officers to handle things through our municipal courts,” Fagan said, explaining that local courts can work around officers schedules, whereas state courts can often cause officers to lose an entire day’s worth of work.
Additionally, any fines incurred will go to the city, rather than the state.
The ordinance allows officers to do what they are already doing with more efficiency; however, it may also prove a benefit to the minors charged with possession. In normal minor possession cases handled through the state, a minor’s driver’s license is automatically suspended when they are charged. By having these case’s handled at the municipal level, local courts can make the decision whether or not to suspend the minor’s license.
“We have to apply to the state to take their license away,” Fagan confirmed.
The city council heard the first reading of this proposal at their previous meeting, and will hear it once before voting as part of their Sep. 17 meeting.