by Alex Hudson/ Drug Information Center
with contributions from Kristina Mader/ Legal Information Center

Q: The last thing I want is to be out kickin’ it with my buds some Friday night and to have the fuzz roll up and bust our chops. Got any advice?

A: Getting your chops busted is something we should all worry about. Well, at least all of us who aren’t of legal drinking age.
Let’s start out with some prevention techniques. If you are the host of the party, follow the timeless advice of Mr. Rogers and be a good neighbor by warning you neighbors ahead of time. This can be kind of awkward, but your neighbors will really appreciate it, and this can prevent them from getting really pissed when all the sudden the party starts crackin’. Let them know you are planning on having some friends over, and give them your phone number so they can call you first if things get too loud, instead of defaulting to calling the cops.

Also, do your best to keep the party in control. Limit the amount of people privy to the party invite and try to keep people inside, or in the backyard. Nothing says “call the cops on me” like a ton of people drinking in the front yard.

Keep the jams as low as possible, especially after 10pm, when the Bellingham noise ordinances kick in. As much as you may want to get groovy to loud tunes, your neighbors are probably not going to appreciate listening to “SexyBack” on repeat at one in the morning.

Another good tip is to have food and non-alcoholic beverages available to keep the festivities low key. Along this same grain of thought, don’t let drunk people drive home after your party. Not only is it illegal and lame, any consequential accidents can be considered your liability. Keep some taxi numbers on the fridge, and use them.

Now let’s say you’ve followed all my sage advice yet the cops still show up. What to do? Have no fear because I got in touch with the lovely and informed Legal Information Center Coordinator and go the low-down on keeping cool, calm, and Constitutional when interacting with Bellingham’s finest. She reports…

When it comes to alcohol, Washington state has some of the strictest laws. Contrary to popular belief, if you are underage in 15 states, it is not illegal to consume alcohol, only to purchase it. Our state though, has penalties for the purchase, possession, and consumption of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21.

Using a fake ID will only make things worse. Consequences for having a fake can range from a slap on the wrist to $500 fine and six months of probation. Ouch.

If you are caught hosting a get together of friends with adult beverages, how the cops deal with you can be based on a variety of factors, none of which can be predicted. If the cops come to your house, they cannot enter without a search warrant. You do not have to let them in. If you hear that aggressive knock on the door and you are the owner of said dwelling, calming down is step number one. Step two involves having an over 21-er open the door, walking outside, and shutting it calmly behind you. Be polite and ask them what’s up. They are probably going to give you a noise violation at this point. This does not mean you have to let them in, or make the other people inside come out to meet and greet. Ask them to go and get a warrant, and don’t forget to do so with the manners and respect of a mature young adult. If they get a warrant, read it, and find out what the scope of it is, i.e. whether they can move things and look in drawers, etc.

If you are a minor, and you are caught by the police, remember you have the right to remain silent, after you have provided your name, ID, etc. You do not have to volunteer any other information, and do not have to answer questions you don’t want to. But, if you refuse to answer questions, be polite! They will appreciate it if you aren’t belligerent and yelling at them – they will write it in their report and the judge will read it.

Recap: Be smart and don’t get the cops called on you in the first place. If that doesn’t work, be polite to the police but don’t dig yourself into a legal hole by talking too much And then get yourself to the yellow pages and find yourself a good lawyer.