Punished for Partying

Despite the new MIP law, most students still party.

Columbia police arrested 97 people for 123 offenses the Friday and Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Of those, 91 were minors in possession of alcohol - and a new law made it a little easier for them to be arrested.

Before Labor Day weekend, a minor only could be arrested for possession of alcohol if he or she was holding an open bottle or container. Now, thanks to a law passed in August, a minor's body is considered a container of alcohol. Minors with a blood alcohol content level of .02 or above can be charged with a minor in possession.

However, the new regulations might not stop minors from partying, and most students seem to think the law is simply impractical.

"Partying and socializing is a big part of how you get to know people in college," junior Josh Lanahan said. "I think (the law) is basically targeting younger people."

Lanahan turned 21 in September, and he said he drank illegally before his birthday.

"The law didn't change my drinking habits," he said. "Most bars don't check IDs."

Freshman Alex Lundy said the new law has influenced her drinking habits.

"The law does make a difference," she said. "It makes me more cautious because I don't want to risk getting in trouble."

Lundy said she believes in the value of the new MIP law.

"I think the law has really good intentions," she said.

Lundy is particularly careful when attending parties where she will not get a ride home from a sober peer.

"I'll definitely pay more attention when I'm walking home because there is more of a chance of me getting caught," she said.

But Lundy said she has not noticed a change in the drinking habits of her peers.

"Kids know they shouldn't drink," she said. "I know I shouldn't drink, but I don't think I've seen a difference in anyone other than me."

Lanahan said he has not noticed a change in the amount of drinking, either.

"A lot of people I know have been arrested for driving while intoxicated and MIPs, but the new law didn't change the way they drink," Lanahan said.

Despite this, Lanahan said he does believe the law is a deterrent.

"People might see it as unfair, but I think it's necessary to keep the growing alcoholism under control," he said. "I think the law is better for kids in the long run."

Wellness Resource Center Director Kim Dude said she feels the law could make the community more secure.

"If people are not drinking to the point of intoxication, we'll have a safer community," Dude said.

Senior Andy Doran, fundraising chairman for STRIPES, MU's sober-driving program, said he hasn't seen a change in students' drinking habits.

Critics of the legislation argue that, for college students, drinking is inevitable and this new law will not decrease underage drinking, but merely increase the punishment for it. Although they do not believe the new legislation will discourage underage drinking, proponents of the law think it will be a deterrent.

"The law is a deterrent effect," said former Columbia police Sgt. Danny Grant, a longtime supervisor of the department's Community Service Unit. "Enforcement sets a standard of behavior within the community. To a certain degree, these things will occur within a college community, but we must set a standard of behavior, and the way we do this is through enforcement."

Dude said she hopes the law will make minors think about their drinking habits more.

"I hope it will deter them from drinking too much, to the point of intoxication, because they know they are more likely to get caught if they are," Dude said.

Lanahan has a different opinion.

"By and large, most people will take the risk," he said. "No law is going to stop that."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, said he doesn't expect the law to eliminate underage drinking.

"We don't have any delusions that we can eliminate it, but we are serious about reducing underage drinking in Missouri," Gibbons said. "We're not interested in punishing people, but we're very serious about deterring it. There is no state in America that has a drinking age less than 21. That's the law, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure people follow it."

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