Party Patrol 101
The Bellingham Police Department’s party patrol responds to 911 phone calls reporting loud parties. The bus shows up at a party and serves as a place to process citations. Here is a list of the most common party related citations, along with their penalties:
If you generate noise that unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace, comfort, and repose of your neighbors, the police can issue a public disturbance noise citation. The first offense is a civil infraction with a maximum $250 fine. However, if this is your second offense, the infraction becomes a misdemeanor with a maximum $500 fine and 90 days in jail. Misdemeanors are nothing to scoff at—one misdemeanor on your record can impact your ability to secure future employment, get a loan, or rent a house.
Even if you didn’t intentionally invite anyone underage—even if your friend reassured you that they checked IDs at the door—you might end up with underage people at your party. If the Party Patrol busts your party and find that alcohol is being served or consumed, then those under 21 will be cited for a minor in possession (commonly known as an MIP). This is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $5,000 fine, one year in jail, or both.
If there are underage people at your party and the Party Patrol determines that alcohol is present, then not only will those under 21 receive MIPs, but you the host will receive a citation for furnishing alcohol to minors. Even if you didn’t personally provide them with alcohol, you are responsible for what happens at your party and if underage people are drinking, then you will take the heat. This is also a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $5,000 fine, one year in jail, or both.
It is unlawful for any person to open any package containing liquor, to possess any open container of liquor, or to consume any liquor in a public place, except in those areas that have appropriate licensing from the State of Washington. The first offense is a civil infraction with a maximum $250 fine.
If the Party Patrol comes to your door to investigate a complaint of a noisy party, treat the officers with respect, provide them with the information they request, and follow their instructions. If the police officers on the scene find your behavior sufficiently belligerent—which is seen as intentionally creating risk of assault—then you will be cited for disorderly conduct. This is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine, 90 days in jail, or both. It doesn’t end there—if you are found guilty, the Bellingham Police will inform the owner of your house in writing that their tenant (you) received a disorderly conduct citation. This could be grounds for eviction, since the Landlord-Tenant Act requires you the tenant to comply with all city, county, and state regulations.