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Homeowners Now on the Hook for Wild Parties

Chesterfield's City Council voted to approve an ordinance to increase the penalties incurred by “hosting” a party where underage drinking and rowdy behavior takes place.

Parents and homeowners can now be billed by Chesterfield for the cost of sending police, firefighters or emergency medical personnel to respond to an out-of-control party. The new ordinance passed at Monday’s City Council meeting will require the “host” of any party that attracts the attention of law enforcement to pay for costs associated with the emergency call.

The vote passed 6 to 1, with Ward 3 Councilman Mike Casey casting the dissenting vote.

Three representatives of the , Renee Heney, Nancy Bengtson, and Earl Borge, spoke in support of the ordinance before the vote. Bengtson said the ordinance would be a useful tool for parents of teenagers.

“I think if we address it like Clarkson Valley and Wildwood have, if the fees for the first responders are billed to the parents, perhaps they will pay a little more attention than they do to the fines that are levied now,” Bengtson said.

Long time Chesterfield resident Karl Daubel spoke against the bill. He agreed it was a good idea to tamp down on illegal alcohol and drug use, but thought the bill was an example of overreaching government.

“There are laws on the books that already cover most of all the difficulties,” he said. He pointed out that tax payers are already paying for emergency services and that the city just wants to be reimbursed for services already paid for.

He said that Police Chief Ray Johnson said “events have been dropping off in numbers over the years” and questioned why the city needed another law to address a dwindling problem.

He added sarcastically that now parents will be forced to take their bored teens with them everywhere just to prevent costly “flash mob party animals” who could show up.

What is an unruly party?

The law defines a party as a gathering of five or more persons.

If the person who held the party is a minor, then the parents or guardians will be liable for the cost. Homeowners, property owners and renters of a property are also liable for the law enforcement cost, even if they were not at the residence when the party took place.

If law enforcement or other first responders are called to an unruly party then the person responsible for holding the party or the property owner can be billed for those emergency services. The bill could include the wages for the emergency personnel for the time they spent responding to the incident and the “administrative costs attributable to such responses.” The bill could also include the cost of medical treatment if any responder is hurt during the call.

Unlawful party guests

Though , any party on private property that disturbs the peace could fall under this rule.

The law states that “loud or unruly conduct” can include a long list of offenses, such as:

  • Excessive noise
  • Excessive traffic
  • Obstruction of public streets
  • Crowds that have spilled onto public streets
  • Public drunkenness
  • Unlawful public consumption or possession of alcohol by underage persons
  • Illegaling serving alcoholic beverage to underage persons
  • Assaults, batteries and fights
  • Domestic violence
  • Vandalism
  • Litter
  • Any other conduct that constitutes a threat to the public health, safety and quiet enjoyment of residential property.

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