Underage Drinking Tickets Up 500 Percent In Lubbock - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/18/07

Underage Drinking Tickets Up 500 Percent In Lubbock

Underage drinking tickets in Lubbock have more than quadrupled. From August to September, Lubbock police wrote 650 tickets. Last year during the same time period, only 154 tickets were written. Now, local defense attorneys are getting involved.

A group of attorneys are now offering to defend some underage drinkers. They are all members of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and some say underage drinking isn't on the rise just the enforcement.

"I see it as an overzealous police department. I don't think the atmosphere has changed that much from one year to the next, we're seeing a 500 percent increase, I mean kids are not having that more parties," Rusty Gunter, President, Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Gunter is talking about underage drinking tickets and that 500% increase accounts for Minors in Possession, Minors in Consumption, Public Intoxication and Driving Under the Influence.

"I represent someone who went to do their friend a favor and pick them up from a party and they're there 10 minutes and the party gets busted and they get cited," Gunter said.

Thomas Trombley is the Lubbock Municipal Court Administrator. He says, "The court, as far as I knew, we were not even aware this was going to happen. All the sudden the kids started showing up."

So now, nearly 20 Lubbock defense attorneys have started accepting student's cases free of charge.

"They're walking a fine line with the 4th amendment. Additional you are having kids cited, they are just citing everyone, and they're not narrowing to a people who are allegedly committing the criminal offense. It's just a shot gun approach," Gunter added.

Lt. Scott Hudgens says the Lubbock Police Department is just doing its job.

"With the recent deaths of these young people in traffic accidents and things like that and it's obvious that voluntary compliance isn't working. So we believe that more stringent producers need to be applied," Lt. Scott Hudgens said.

But Gunter says those stringent producers may be violating constitutional amendments.

"There are some glaring Fourth Amendment violations. Secondly, the citations are being given without probable are cause," Gunter said.

The prosecutors are also busy trying to handle the increase in underage drinking cases so they have created a Pre-Trial Diversion Program. It gives Texas Tech students the opportunity to take a substance abuse program on campus and possibly get those charges dropped.

Police also say some of these tickets happen when responding to noise complaints in Lubbock neighborhoods. During the first month of school, they wrote 550 noise ordinance tickets.

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