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Oswego Underage Drinking Arrests to Remain Misdemeanor Offenses

Apr 23, 2015 08:47AM ● By Steven Jack

Underage drinking and alcohol possession in Oswego will remain misdemeanor offenses handled in the Kendall County court system after a measure to change the charges to local ordinance violation tickets failed to even receive a motion for a vote from the Village Board Tuesday night. 

A large underage drinking party last year led to the discussion to change the process. Oswego Police responded to a home in the Churchill Subdivision just after midnight on Oct. 12, 2014 and found the party in progress. Eventually 48 individuals were arrested on a variety of charges, including unlawful consumption and possession of alcohol by a minor. 

According to Police Chief Jeff Burgner the arrests posed several logistical problems for Oswego Police — the most pronounced being transporting and processing 48 individuals through the Oswego Police station. The task took officers until after noon the following day, and several additional off-duty officers were called in to help. In all, the entire process cost Oswego taxpayers an estimated $5,300.

Trustees on Tuesday night shied away from the change, citing issues with juvenile privacy rights that may arise in the local ordinance violation adjudication process that takes place at Village Hall. Those hearings are open to the public, while the juvenile underage drinking cases handled through Kendall County court are not. 

Other changes with a local ordinance violation ticket would have included the offender not being fingerprinted or booked at the police station and being turned over to a parent or guardian at the scene, according to Burgner. Ticketing also would not give other police departments access to those records. 

Even though Burgner recommended the change, he said the lack of even a vote from trustees still resulted in several positives. The process has prompted discussions with the county that will now have the Sheriff’s Office aiding Oswego in mass arrest situations like October’s. 

Burgner said Sheriff Dwight Baird has agreed to help the police transport large amounts of people arrested at once to the police station, and also will take them to the Kendall County Jail for processing if an unsafe situation is created with too many people in the Oswego Police Department holding area.

The State’s Attorney’s office also has agreed to let Oswego Police defer booking offenders to avoid a large backlog of work during such arrests. 

“I would definitely consider this whole process a success,” Burgner said. “This has created some conversations between us and the county that have led to some new efficiencies in how we handle these things. I think it’s a win.”