Western Courier

You must be this old to drink this beer, Part 2

James Needham

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Editors note: This story is part two of a six-part series about underage drinking on Western Illinois University’s Macomb campus. It follows student Brian McClintock through his life after being charged with underage drinking in his Corbin Hall dorm room. In this story, the Western Courier checks in with McClintock on his Feb. 26 court date.

In the first story of this series, we met 19-year-old family and consumer sciences major Brian McClintock. We heard about his run-in with three officers from the Office of Public Safety (OPS) and two resident assistants who said they smelled alcohol in his room.

We heard how they became agitated when McClintock was the only person of the 10 in his room to step into the hallway when commanded. We heard how he denied them access to his room.

We heard how an officer stuck his foot in the door when the next person opened it. And then we heard that when all 10 occupants declined breathalyzers, they were asked to blow in the officers’ faces who said they

smelled alcohol.

That was used as evidence to issue six people in the room drinking tickets — without seeing a bottle, a can, a cup, a cocktail or mini umbrella.

We left McClintock as he waited for his Feb. 26 court date where he would be left no choice but to plead guilty — a jury trial would be too expensive.

And now we continue the story…

On the day of his court hearing, McClintock’s friends sat in the benches waiting for their names to be called. One by one, the judge stated each name and someone approached the bench. But when the judge called McClintock’s name, there was silence.

McClintock had missed his court date. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

In truth, his lawyer was in the building filling out paperwork to have McClintock’s court date pushed back to March 19. The 19-year-old wasn’t happy.

“Why am I hiring someone that’s doing stuff at the very last second?” McClintock asked. “If she was sick and she didn’t get there, I could have had a warrant out for my arrest.

“My friend said it could have cost me a thousand dollars.”

The sophomore decided to hire a lawyer after talking things over with his father. They didn’t know what else to do.

“I’ve never been in trouble before and neither has anyone in my family,” he said. “So we don’t really know how the court systems work.”

The lawyer cost him $400. Add that to the $500 he paid to plea to lower the charge of possession of an “open container” charge and the $200 in court fees and you can see it’s getting expensive.

“So, right now I’m looking at $1,100 for a drinking ticket when I wasn’t even drinking,” he said.

McClintock insisted he didn’t drink a drop that night. He said he’s angry with the school because it has done nothing to help him out of the situation.

In fact, the university is responsible for the second part of the legal gauntlet a student in his situation has to go through — a student judicial review. It’s a disciplinary hearing  by the university to determine if he should remain a student in good standing.

McClintock said he tried to plea with the City of Macomb, but he got a familiar answer.

“It’s the officer’s word against yours,” he said. “And you can’t really do anything about that.”

McClintock wasn’t found guilty during his hearing. But he said if he had been found guilty, he could have faced a fine and a black mark on his official school record.

Even though he’s happy to not have a another charge against him, his situation with the city and OPS has left him perplexed.

“It’s just weird to me that you can be convicted of something without any evidence,” he said. “I’m sure the officer knows what alcohol smells like, but there was no physical evidence that I did anything wrong.”

Next in the series: What is judicial review?

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
You must be this old to drink this beer, Part 2