Skip to comments.Loud teen party becomes a high-profile legal battle
Posted on 06/17/2005 8:47:31 AM PDT by Millee
A routine call to check a loud party complaint at a home in one of this Fort Bend County city's swankiest neighborhoods has mushroomed into a full-fledged legal battle, with a squad of seasoned criminal defense attorneys lined up one side and the city on the other.
The dispute centers on citations police issued to 37 teenagers for possessing alcohol. Many of the teens say they were not drinking at the April 14 party. The parents were not home.
Some of the teens have pleaded guilty, but others and their parents are fighting the charges. They say police walked in without a warrant and simply issued citations to everyone in attendance, paying no mind to who was drinking and who was not.
On the other side of the dispute are city leaders and police who say officers had a duty to curtail underage drinking.
The attorneys, many of whom work felony cases in district court, met with the prosecutor and judge in municipal court Thursday to hash out details about an upcoming hearing on the case.
A parent, Rene Woodring, said she is fighting the charges because her daughter was not drinking.
"The police came in. They didn't check to see which kids were drinking. They just said everybody is getting a minor in possession" citation, she said.
Woodring went to the house in the 800 block of Sugar Creek shortly after the 10:47 p.m. raid and asked police to give sobriety tests to determine who had been drinking.
"They said, 'No, everybody is getting a ticket and you just have to go to court and we will sort it out there,' " Woodring said Thursday.
Woodring and other parents are also angry because those who received citations were not allowed to take part in extracurricular activities at school.
Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace said despite the view of defense attorneys and some parents, city officials think the officers had legal cause to enter the house and issue citations.
"We take a very strong stance on minors in possession and we take a strong stance on illegal and underage drinking," he said.
Wallace said some of the teens and their parents have filed complaints against police for what they call unprofessional or abusive behavior.
"We are working those and continuing to investigate those" complaints, he said.
While many are fighting the charges, Sugar Land prosecutor Jan Baker said 14 of the teenagers have pleaded guilty.
At the pre-trial conference Thursday, defense lawyers filed motions saying officers entered the house illegally because they did not have a warrant or probable cause.
The attorneys want the search and all evidence seized to be suppressed.
Municipal Court Judge D. Craig Landin said the legal issues regarding the entry and search of the home will be argued during a June 30 hearing.
Attorney Keith Hampton, who is representing one of the teens, said circumstances did not give police cause to enter the house.
Police can enter a house without a warrant or consent from the owner under certain conditions, such as a life being in danger or evidence being destroyed.
Although there were no indications of serious felonies being committed in the home, prosecutor Baker thinks there is sufficient case law to permit the actions the officers took.
The episode began when police were sent to the Sugar Creek house to investigate complaints about a party, said Sugar Land police spokeswoman Pat Whitty.
As officers pulled up to the two-story home, several partygoers ran away.
Officers went inside where they corralled 37 people younger than 21. They also found dozens of beers and other alcoholic beverages. Whitty said police issued citations for minor in possession of alcohol and arrested two people.
Gotta protect the kiddies from themselves after all.
And of course freedom of association has long since gone out the window as well.
The Sugar Land police department didn't learn from neighbor Houston. Remember the K-Mart raid?
You're exactly right. All these little rich brats think they have a God-given right to screw off just because Daddy has money. I love the parents' reactions: "Not my little Muffy!" Muffy shouldn't have been there in the first place. Sounds like the Clinton "but I never inhaled" defense.
You know that if this were a story about black kids carrying on in Gary or Indianapolis, these same swanky parents would be supporting the cops 110%.
Well, can you prove in beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law that any particular teenager was drinking?
Especially, now, with Michael Jackson's defense team free to take new cases for a small fee....
"You know that if this were a story about black kids carrying on in Gary or Indianapolis, these same swanky parents would be supporting the cops 110%."
Bingo. Same applies to certain FReepers.
After some huffing and puffing they will admit they screwed up and drop the charges.
The cops will not be disciplined for violating everyones rights.
Bingo! We don't want our kids "feelings" to be hurt, by being left out of something. That's why we let them attend parties where there is underage drinking and no adult supervision. Gotta be popular at any cost.
What ever happened to just telling their parents?
Why do we have to give every kid a criminal record?
Maybe we should arrest teens for underage sex too.
My guess is they've been paying attention to how the system works.
If there was probable cause; e.g., excessive noice, breaking glass, etc., I think the police officers were well within their right to investigate, especially if they were called to this location based on reports from neighbors (I'm making an assumption here).
Of course, if no breathalyzer tests were given, or no pictures taken of the suspects with alcohol in hand, there would seem to be no evidence directly tied to an individual.
I think many of us have been in the situation as these kids. You may not particularly like it at the time, but they were breaking the law, and should pay the consequences if they get caught.
I didn't see anyone allege either of the above conditions here.Maybe I missed it.
Also, the fact that they refused to offer Breathalyzers after being asked means that these cases go bye-bye. The cops involved should be required to pay the court costs IMO.
If they were at the party yet not consuming alcohol, do you think that they should still suffer the consequences?
You are painting with an overly-broad brush. In the same breath you are calling the parents racists (without any evidence whatsoever) and stereotyping the behaviors of "evil rich people". Are you a Democrat?
Those who's rights have been violated have the following recourse:
U.S. Supreme Court HAFER v. MELO, 502 U.S. 21 (1991)
monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983
"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured. . . ."
We hold that state officials, sued in their individual capacities, are "persons" within the meaning of 1983. The Eleventh Amendment does not bar such suits, nor are state officers absolutely immune from personal liability under 1983 solely by virtue of the "official" nature of their acts.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is Affirmed.
I would sue the shit out of the cops, prosecutors, and any other city official involved.
The parents let their underage kids go to a drinking party?
Were they out drinking themselves?