By: Jeffrey G. Tickal, Esq.
Gullage & Tickal, LLP
Spring is in the air, and it is now about time for the 2016 Alpha Psi Rodeo to be held on April 2, 2016 at Ingram Farm, Opelika, AL, about 25 miles outside of Auburn.
For the last 15 years I have been representing students who have been arrested at the Alpha Psi Rodeo or on their way home. In 2015, 45 people were arrested at the rodeo site. This number is misleading because it does not reflect all of the arrests for DUI’s, Public Intoxication, or Public Lewdness in Auburn as part of the Rodeo’s aftermath. Because the Alpha Psi Rodeo is no longer held within Auburn City limits, jurisdiction for any criminal charges is now the District Court of Lee County, Alabama. Luckily, Lee County has started a pre-trial diversion program similar to Auburn’s. However, this program does not preclude you from being arrested, detained and having a criminal record.
This article is taken from my “Top Ten Things That Will Get You Arrested at Auburn” Seminar.
· Driving Under the Influence – “Hey man, am I driving ok? I think we’re parked man.” Just because you are at the rodeo and not on a public highway does not mean a police officer cannot arrest you for DUI. If you are in actual physical control of the vehicle whether it is on a public highway or in a grassy field while under the influence of alcohol or drugs you can be arrested for DUI. In fact, you can be asleep behind the wheel of a car that is parked and still be arrested for DUI. Although the event is not in Auburn, I am sure that the Sheriff will be on patrol on the roads back to Auburn, and the Opelika and Auburn Police Departments will most likely have a net set up to catch intoxicated drivers entering their jurisdictions. Get a designated driver and don’t drink and drive!
· Public Intoxication – “I did not want to be drunk in public, they threw me into public.” Essentially, a charge of PI is when a person appears in public and is under the influence of drugs or alcohol to such an extent that he is a danger to himself or others, is boisterous, or displays offensive conduct that annoys another person in his vicinity. The PI charge usually means that you either are so drunk that they find you lying in the bushes, vomiting or passed out, or you have done something to “annoy” the police officer. It has been my experience that a PI charge usually involves the student doing something to bring attention to himself. That is, the police officer is going to check on you if they find you sleeping or ill. There are also going to make contact with you if they find you on the top of a porta potty with a handle of Jim Bean. Once the police officer makes contact with you, how you respond usually determines whether or not you are going to get charged with PI or be allowed to move along.
· Public Lewdness – “Don’t get naked in public.” Public Lewdness is the negligent exposing of the genitals to the public. Public Lewdness is not indecent exposure in that it does not require the gratification component. Essentially a public lewdness charge begins with a young male who takes the opportunity to relieve himself in public. Once again, peeing in public not only exposes you to the public but draws the attention of the police officer. The charge of public lewdness will be carried with you through the rest of your life. Quite often the charge is changed to criminal littering, however, if the police officer or sheriff does charge you with public lewdness, it is a charge that needs to be handled seriously. The best way to avoid this charge is not to expose yourself in public. Public lewdness charges also involve mooning, streaking, and other activities where the person decides to get naked in public. The advice here is “not to get naked in public” and avoid relieving yourself in the site of others.
· Minor in Possession of Alcohol — “That’s not my beer.” The legal drinking age in Alabama is 21. Having possession of alcohol by a minor is a criminal offense in Alabama and subjects the person not only to the criminal charge but also the loss or suspension of their driver’s license. Don’t believe what people tell you in that the officer is not going to charge you with a minor in possession of alcohol. If the police officer does see you with alcohol he has every right to charge you with possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor. Although this may not be a priority for the officers at the rodeo that day, it is something they can charge you with if they make contact with you. If you are going to make yourself noticeable, you might not want to have alcohol in your possession if you are not of legal age. Over this last several years, the ABC Board would be present at the Alpha Psi Rodeo. Their main purpose was to arrest those minors for the possession and/or consumption of alcohol as well as other alcohol related offenses. It was kinda their super bowl of the year for minor in possession of alcohol cases.
· Fake ID’s – “Yes, I am Nick Pappagiorgio from Yuma”. Leave your fake ID at home. There is no sale of alcohol at the Alpha Psi Rodeo. If you produce a fake ID at the rodeo to an officer, you are committing a criminal offense. In fact, the mere possession of some of these ID’s is a criminal offense. I have recently represented several students charged with possession of fraudulent or forged document. This is a serious offense because it is a crime of moral turpitude. We have had to work diligently to try and get them out from under those charges. Presenting a fake ID to an officer is a much more serious offense in that not only are you in possession of a forged document but you are now presenting it in an attempt to deceive or obstruct police activities. Once you do this you will find yourself quickly in the back of a patrol car. Do not carry your fake ID to the Alpha Psi Rodeo.
· Possession of Marijuana – “Ooh that smell, can’t you smell that smell?” Police officer catches the smell of marijuana in the air like a blood hound on a trail of a raccoon. He will follow that smell until he finds its source. There is no hiding it. The police will not overlook the smell, possession, or use of marijuana at this event. Any person found with marijuana or drug paraphernalia at the rodeo will be arrested. It is simple as that.
· Disorderly Conduct – involves either fighting, obstructing vehicular of pedestrian traffic, making unreasonable noises, or disturbing a lawful assemblance of persons. It also involves being in public and refusing a lawful order by the police to disburse. Much like PI, disorderly conduct charges do not simply arise from being in public. Normally, you must do something to bring attention to yourself, i.e. fighting, using obscene gestures, or failing to comply with the lawful order of the police. Quite often, PI and disorderly conduct go together. Police officers will first make contact with somebody and ask them to move along. The response should be “yes sir/ma’am” and do whatever you can to get out of the line of sight of that officer. However, it has again been my experience that when alcohol is involved students seem to take this opportunity to talk to the police officer and explain why they can’t move along, i.e. their friend is here, their ride is here, their purse is here, or they’ve left their cell phone or they just don’t want to. At this point the officer is becoming “annoyed” and you may have violated a lawful demand to disburse. Normally these arrests start near the end of the rodeo rather than the beginning. That is, the officer has just probably had enough of the students near the end of the rodeo. Again, the moral of the story is not to attract attention to yourself and to listen to the officer when he tells you to move along.
· Resisting Arrest – “Don’t taze me Bro!” You have now found yourself under arrest. How you react to the arrest by the police officer will determine the ultimate outcome of your case. It is much more difficult to represent a student who has threatened a police officer, threatened his job, told him he was going to have the mayor fire him, or attempt to kick out the rear window of the patrol car. Not only is resisting arrest another charge, it normally results in some sort of jail sentence which might otherwise be avoided. If you are attempting to apply for youthful offender or pre-trial diversion program and the police officer objects due to your conduct during the arrest, the Court may not grant you admission into the pre-trial diversion program and/or youthful offender status. Therefore, if the officer tells you that you are under arrest, do not jerk away, run, cry, or threaten the police officer. Also, remember that anything you say while sitting in the back of the patrol car is recorded. Once again, it is very difficult to plead a student’s case before the judge when he is watching a video of that student in the back of the patrol car threatening the police officer, cussing, and otherwise acting inappropriately. Once it is determined that you are being arrested, the best thing for you to do is to comply with the police officer’s terms, remain quiet, and call AAA Bonding. (Jimmy, at AAA Bonding, is very responsive. Mention my name.)
The above list is not an exclusive list of items and not meant to cover all of the items that you can be charged with while at the Alpha Psi Rodeo. However, keep these things in mind may help prevent you from getting arrested and enjoying yourself at the Alpha Psi Rodeo. Each of the items listed above can be equally applied to spring break or going out on a Friday night.
If you have any questions regarding any of the above, please feel free to contact my office at 334-737-3733. We will be available the Saturday and Sunday of the rodeo if you wish to call us or need assistance. However, after the arrest, the best thing to do is remain calm, bond out, and make an appointment with me for the following week. I wish you all a safe and fun rodeo.
Gullage & Tickal, LLP