Just another Homecoming drive by shooting?

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After the Crimson Tide gave a sound whipping to the Arkansas Razorbacks on the gridiron, thousands of football fans migrated to the area known as The Strip. Bars located in The Strip, which is located within easy walking distance of Bryant Denny Stadium, cater to football fans and students.

Doubtlessly many under-aged drinkers were participating in the football victory celebration when a car drove down University Boulevard and shots were fired.

Michael Casagrande reported on the incident in AL.com:

Two red shoes sat empty on a Tuscaloosa sidewalk following an early-morning shooting outside a popular bar.

An unidentified 28-year-old man was shot in the lower back outside Rounders on the University Boulevard strip near Bryant-Denny Stadium following Alabama’s 41-9 win over Arkansas. 

The shooting occurred at 12:39 a.m. Sunday morning, Tuscaloosa police said. Information on the victim’s wounds was not immediately available early Sunday morning. The victim was taken to DCH Hospital just up the street from the crime scene.

Large crowds were still milling around the near-campus entertainment zone in the hour following the shooting. A group sat just outside the yellow police tape eating pitas as the homicide unit took crime scene photos approximately 20 feet away. Across the street, a long line patiently waited to order at the Quick Grill as police guarded the secure crime scene.

The incident has been characterized as a “drive by shooting” although it wasn’t a random shooting from a passing car.

By the time the shooting occurred much of the Homecoming crowd had probably dissipated but the police who patrolled the area still must have had their hands full. Students frequent the bars on The Strip until the wee hours of the morning. The police certainly would have been overwhelmed had enforcing the laws that govern under-aged drinkers been their highest priority.

Gunfire on The Strip isn’t frequently heard. Shootings have occurred in Tuscaloosa at apartments, trailer parks and other locations than The Strip.

But drinking alcohol and gun violence are statistically correlated.  A paper published in Oxford Journal’s Epidemiological Review reported, “One large group of studies showed that over one third of firearm violence decedents had acutely consumed alcohol and over one fourth had heavily consumed alcohol prior to their deaths.”

As long as the City of Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama find enforcing laws and policies on under-aged drinking to be a Sisyphean feat, there is a greater likelihood of some University of Alabama students not living long enough to get their degrees.

 

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A tale of two IDs

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There was a 2016 Reddit post about the use of a fake ID by a minor in Tuscaloosa. The guilty party wrote:

I was recently approached outside of a bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and asked to show them my ID. At first I kept telling them I was 22, but he told me it was better to just tell them my real age so I did, I’m 20. They took my ID and wrote me a citation that says I committed the offense of “Improper ID By Minor.” They handed me the citation and told me to show up to court, but that’s it. 

A response to the post, which was asking about the consequences of the citation, said that a year ago The University of Alabama Civil Law Clinic gave a “$320 fine and a mandatory 90-180 day suspension of your driver’s license” as the penalty. Since then the fine may have been increased by $100.

The use of fake IDs to obtain alcohol in Tuscaloosa is a commonplace practice. High tech IDs can cost hundreds of dollars. It is a law enforcement nightmare. Many people who can pay hundreds of dollars for a fake ID would not be deterred by such a fine.

Several lawyers in Tuscaloosa advertise that they specialize in “Open Container”, “Improper I.D.” and “Minor in Possession of Alcohol” cases.

In terms of Alabama state law, the improper use of an ID can be considered a felony. The penalty for “possession of a forged instrument” may be punishable for up to ten years.

In Tuscaloosa, students who are minors and use a forged instrument seemingly are handled with “kid gloves” by the city. A youthful offenders status may play a part in this. And according to a local law enforcement officer, possession of a “forged instrument” would require intent to defraud. According to his interpretation, the use of a fake ID to enter an establishment to obtain alcohol involves no intent to defraud and can’t be charged under the state’s felony statute.

A student who posted in Greek Rank described his experience with the use of fake IDs in Tuscaloosa in this way:

It can be pretty 50/50. I’ve used good and bad fakes and had success/failure with both. Generally accepted rule is that the bars are more lenient earlier in the week (Mondays and Tuesdays especially) and harder later in the week (Fridays and Saturdays being the worst). Date parties are hit or miss, you’ll pretty quickly learn which locations have stricter bouncers (Chucks for example is usually pretty strict but Ive found Glory Bound to be easier). How good your fake is usually doesn’t determine whether they’ll accept it or not, but unlike some schools where you could use someone of say like a different race and the bouncers wouldn’t care, you need to at least have your picture that looks like you. Also, try to get one that works under a black light and scans. I know I said it doesn’t NEED to work, but a lot more bars nowadays are getting particular about that. I had two for around 75 dollars that worked really well until I became 21.

Just be careful, go on the right nights, don’t go to bars like Gallettes that are notorious for rejections, and you should be fine. Looking back now I think its probably a bad idea to get and use one but I get the feeling you were going to anyway, so hopefully this keeps you from hurting yourself.

The University of Alabama has clearly stated that the use of a fake ID is a violation of its policy.

 The University of Alabama’s Alcohol Policy clearly states that, “It is unlawful and a violation of University Policy to use or possess identification that makes an individual appear older or misrepresents an individual as someone else.”

If the University is serious about its own policies on the illegal use of alcohol and false identification, then it should make the penalty for such behavior onerous enough to deter it.  Obviously current measures are not effective.

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Another Bunch of Drunks at Homecoming!

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Earl Tilford’s book “Turning the Tide: The University in the 1960s” described a University of Alabama Homecoming Parade. Anyone who has ever been to such a homecoming parade has witnessed “a trailer truck bed hauling drunken law school students in tuxedos and top hats along with their inebriated dates, an Alabama tradition.”

Aside from what this says about Alabama’s future barristers, it does represent a culture at the University of Alabama where intoxication seems to be de rigueur on its campus during Homecoming and throughout the year. And most students cannot legally drink.

The University of Alabama has a policy on under-aged drinking:

In Alabama, as the University’s student alcohol policy states, “Individuals under 21 years of age are not permitted to consume alcohol.”

The University acknowledges that:

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism college students face dire consequences due to high alcohol consumption. These estimates include:1,825 traditional aged college students  (between the ages of 18 and 24) die each year due to alcohol-related injuries; 696,000 are assaulted by a peer who has been drinking; 97,000 students are victims of an alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape; 400,000 students had unprotected sex, and more than 100,000 students report to being too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex, and more than 150,000 develop an alcohol-related health problem. (2009).

The widespread use of high-tech fake IDs by students that can be used to purchase alcohol is a major obstacle in enforcing the laws that govern under-aged drinking and the University’s policy.

There is something wrong here. Drunken law students at the Homecoming Parade, football games where forbidden booze is smuggled into Bryant Denny stadium and drunken revelry at fraternity houses that would put Bacchus to shame are indicative of a Campus Booze Culture.

The theme for 2017’s Homecoming at the University of Alabama is “Sweet Home Capstone.” The  lyrics of the  Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama”, which is played during football games, contain the words  “Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth.”

Perhaps the seemingly unconscionable toleration of inebriation on campus by the University of Alabama’s administration is part of the problem?

There are steps that the University could take to curb the illegal use of alcohol by students, including making the use of fake IDs an expellable offense and more aggressive policing of campus activities where alcohol is served.

But on a campus where students were offered booze to vote in a local school board election for a Machine affiliated candidate that’s not likely to happen.

 

 

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Faking it at Bama!

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A Tuscaloosa police officer said that one major difficulty in enforcing laws that govern the legal age for drinking are the fake ID cards that can be purchased online for about $300. He said that more fake IDs are collected by local bars than by law enforcement officers. Dozens are confiscated on a weekly basis in Tuscaloosa. Some of the IDs can even fool scanners. The fine for having a fake ID has recently been increased by $100. The Tuscaloosa Police Department is currently working with the University of Alabama to curb the use of fake IDs.

In some states penalties for the use of fake IDs can include not only fines but imprisonment. USA Today College‘s article “Fake IDs can be a real problem” by Eliza Collins reported:

In Ohio, possession of a fraudulent ID can earn six months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.

Possession of a fake Illinois driver’s license or ID card is punishable by up to three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines, according to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. Knowingly lending a real ID to someone else can earn the lender up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines.

Collins wrote that Her Campus found that 54.5% of readers surveyed had or currently have a fake ID.

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Online businesses such as CHFake.com claim that their product is foolproof:

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Tuscaloosa has a problem with both restaurants in bars that cater to University of Alabama students. Most University students are minors. Many of the establishments in downtown Tuscaloosa have a clientele that consists largely of students. There is a legal loophole that allows nineteen and twenty year-olds to enter bars. Even diligently carding patrons may not be effective in preventing minors from buying liquor.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism described the conditions where alcohol abuse is more likely to occur:

Students attending schools with strong Greek systems and with prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students at  other types of schools. In terms of living arrangements, alcohol consumption is highest among students living in fraternities and

sororities and lowest among commuting students who live with their families.

Alcohol Policy MD has described the problem in enforcing regulations on alcohol use:

In many states throughout the country, minors – those under the legal drinking age of 21 – are permitted in bars unaccompanied by an adult. State and local regulations vary widely in the extent to which they permit minors to enter on-sale retail alcohol outlets

One thing is clear: allowing minors into drinking establishments such as bars and nightclubs is, in the words of one enforcement official, “a regulator’s nightmare.” (Inspector General 1991). It creates numerous difficulties for servers, who must conduct repeated identification checks and continuously track who is actually drinking the beverages being served. It allows minors to consume alcohol purchased from older individuals. And it encourages minors to drink as a way to socialize and become one with their peers.

Underage college drinkers are more likely than their of-age counterparts to suffer consequences ranging from unplanned sex, getting hurt or injured, requiring medical treatment for an alcohol overdose, and doing something they would later regret.  (Wechsler et al. 2000)  These problems often have impacts not just on the drinkers, but on fellow students and area residents as well.

 

Fake IDs are a major problem in Tuscaloosa. Students who can spend hundreds of dollars on an undetectable, state of the art ID in order to illegally drink would likely not be deterred by fines. And they don’t face imprisonment, as is the case in some states.

Perhaps one way to curtail the use of fake IDs would be for the University of Alabama to impose a “one strike and you’re out” rule where any student caught with a fake ID would be automatically expelled.

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T-Town’s “Entertainment District”

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Tuscaloosa in September made its downtown area into a “Downtown T-Town Fall Entertainment District”. Until the end of September, according to Jason Morton’s article in The Tuscaloosa News, “visitors will be allowed to move with an open beverage of alcohol throughout much of the downtown area without running afoul of any laws.”

The Entertainment District was extended by one weekend by the City Council in its first October meeting, with the option of extending the open carrying of alcohol in the downtown area  through the rest of the year.

Lincoln, Nebraska is taking a look at alcohol consumption at tail gating activities.

In The Daily Nebraskan, Emily Morrow reported:

The City of Lincoln’s Internal Liquor Committee is partnering with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a tailgate tour before the Nebraska football game against Wisconsin on Oct. 7.

ILC chair Carl Eskridge said the committee is responsible for collecting data regarding alcohol consumption from a variety of places, including the Lincoln Police Department, UNL Police Department and local businesses.

The reasoning behind the tour is to collect data from the tailgates like they would from bars on gamedays, according to Eskridge. The committee does this by recording the number of people drinking along with each person’s age and gender.

Eskridge said the committee’s main focus is primarily to observe tailgating at locations such as parking lots and the North Bottoms.

Linda Major, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at UNL, is responsible for facilitating a broader conversation between campus and community regarding how the campus responds to high-risk drinking. She has been on the ILC since its founding and has arranged every tour since the first tour four years ago.

There were a couple of reasons behind the tailgate tours and bar walks, said Major. One reason was that they were asking a certain generation of people to make decisions about an environment they never saw, she said.

Another major reason was the Indian Center’s involvement in gamedays, Eskridge said. In past years, many people would go to the Indian Center to park and party.

Three years ago, the situation escalated after more than a dozen tailgaters were arrested after becoming disorderly. As a result, the Indian Center board shut down its gameday activities due to pressure from the city.

The North Bottoms has become a scene for tailgating. Major said the area is not just a college neighborhood, so the alcohol-related activity going on there is disrupting permanent residents.

Will Tuscaloosa have officers patrolling the downtown area who are looking for under aged drinkers or should minors in the downtown area not be concerned about running afoul of the law? Will the city have any legal liability over alcohol use by minors?

 

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At least Date Rape Drugs at Auburn are taken seriously!

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Spiking girls champagne drinks in bar.

Auburn University in 2015 had a scandal when one of its professors was manufacturing and distributing GBH, a date rape drug. It immediately issued an alert to its students warning them of the dangers.

The university provided the following tips to avoid being drugged:

  • Don’t accept drinks from other people or share drinks, and always open drink containers yourself.
  • Don’t drink from punch bowls or other common, open containers.
  • If someone offers to get you a drink from a bar or at a party, go with the person to order your drink.  Watch the drink being poured and carry it yourself.
  • Don’t drink anything that tastes, looks, or smells strange.  Sometimes, date rape drugs may taste salty.
  • Look out for each other and speak up if something seems suspicious.
  • Keep your drink with you at all times and don’t let it out of your sight, even when you go to the bathroom.
  • If you realize that you left your drink unattended, pour it out.
  • If you feel drunk and you haven’t consumed any alcohol, or if you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual, stop drinking and get help right away.

Auburn University advises students to follow these steps if they believe they have been drugged:

  • Report the incident to the police at 911 or 334-501-3100.  If you don’t report it, it can’t be investigated.
  • Get get medical attention and get tested right away.  Some date rape drugs, such as GHB, can only be detected in urine from 3-12 hours after the drug is consumed. 
  • Call 911 or have a trusted friend take you to the East Alabama Medical Center emergency room.  During daytime hours, students can go to the Auburn University Medical Clinic. 
  • Do not urinate before going to the hospital or medical clinic, if at all possible.  If you cannot wait, collect your urine in a clean container and bring it with you for testing.  Although it may not be able to be used for evidence, it can be tested to help you know if you consumed a date rape drug.
  • If you are a survivor of drugging or sexual assault, contact Safe Harbor at 334-844-7233 for access to support services on campus and more information on your options.

Auburn’s policy on a “Drug Free Campus” also addresses GHB.

The University of Alabama’s “Drug Free Campus and Workplace Policy” has no mention of “date rape drugs.”

Perhaps, with the publicity about Megan Rondini and the possible use of GHB, the University of Alabama should include “date rape drugs” among the substances it has included in its policy? For that matter the use of “date rape drugs” is a national phenomena on college campuses. Tuscaloosa should catch up to “The Loveliest Village On The Plains” by making University students aware of GHB and other such drugs.

 

 

 

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If it looks like a duck…

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The code of ordinances for Tuscaloosa, Alabama §3-23(c) stipulates that:

Any person seeking a restaurant liquor license shall submit with its application the plans of its restaurant which shall include the following:

(1) The kitchen shall have a food preparation area and storage equipment necessary to prepare the items listed on the menu.

(2) The number of persons that may be served at one sitting must be listed and there should be space in said area for at least 15 square feet per person.

(3) A proposed menu shall be submitted. The following items will not be considered a meal if they are the only ones served by the establishment seeking a restaurant liquor license: Oysters, shrimp, crab claws, chips, pickles, meats and eggs, peanuts, pretzels, popcorn, sandwiches or any other food that the revenue officer considers not to fall within the definition of a meal as set out in Code of Ala. 1975, § 28-3-1(23).

Jason Morton reported in the Tuscaloosa News:

Tuscaloosa city officials unanimously approved a series of legal definitions that will formally define restaurants, bars and businesses that fluctuate between both.

The definitions also place restrictions on certain uses, such as bars or taverns, event spaces (such as banquet halls) and live entertainment venues.

Another part of the discussion is the addition of buffers around Queen City Avenue and the city’s historic districts to prevent night-oriented businesses from disturbing those who live in these areas.

These buffers have drawn strong opinions from those who stand to be affected.

Developer Phillip Weaver, who has renovated and upgraded a number of downtown structures, was not present for Tuesday’s vote, but this summer he questioned how far the city was willing to go to limit the use of certain buildings.

Weaver now owns the former AlaGasCo building located less than a block from Queen City Avenue on University Boulevard, which could stand to be affected by the new buffer rules.

He has said there was no plan to put a bar or business that stayed open until the early morning hours in there, but he may want a restaurant that converts to a bar and offers live music at about 10 p.m.

It might seem obvious to many people that any establishment that derives most of its revenue from alcohol sales should be considered to be a bar. A bar could also serve food if it so desires.

It would appear to some observers that some of the owners of businesses that serve alcohol want their establishments to be classified as restaurants in order to allow patrons to enter the premises who are too young to be served alcohol.

Would it be unreasonable to require that a restaurant be defined in terms of its being able to earn most of its revenue from food sales?

Maybe the “Duck Test” should be applied to establishments that sell booze?

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

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