Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Alice's Adventures On Northgate

She was what I call a "china doll" client, and that is meant in the best sort of way. A Texas A&M University (TAMU) student from a great family. A freshman, a youngest child, her father and older siblings all TAMU graduates. She was the product of a culture that considers TAMU an extension of their public schooling. I will call her Alice, because her first sojourn on Northgate made me think of her doppelganger of Lewis Carroll fame.

Her ambition on matriculating to TAMU? She wanted to go to work for a well known service organization. The reason? Because it had given so much to her over the years. Seriously, and as will be seen, this was not just a later construct to get her a better deal with prosecutors.

Like so many freshman, Alice decided to go "on Northgate" as they call it locally. More simply, she went to the bar. She and one of her siblings, still a student at TAMU, went to the Northgate Entertainment District across University Drive from the TAMU campus. It is a collection of bars and nightclubs patronized primarily by students from TAMU and another college, the Bryan campus of Blinn College.

Here's the rub: Most of the bars on Northgate allow patrons under 21 years of age onto their premises, but, of course, cannot let them legally imbibe, or even clutch, alcoholic beverages. On her first voyage on Northgate, early in her freshman year, Alice was confronted by a undercover police officer who saw with the inevitable adult beverage in her hand. She was not intoxicated. Not even close.

Who expects 18-20 year olds who are in a bar mixing with a bunch of people over 21 years of age and can legally buy and drink alcoholic beverages NOT to try and drink the same beverages?

Uh, hello. Nobody, as my sister would have said when she was 18 years old.

Alice froze. She had never been confronted in this way or context before. It was loud. The police officer had a badge, but it was dark. She made the wrong decision, giving her older sister's name and date of birth to the lawman.

BOOM. Instead of a Class C Minor in Possession (fine only not exceeding $500), she was arrested, cuffed and stuffed for a far more serious Class A misdemeanor offense (up to a year in county jail and a fine not more than $4000) for providing a false or fictitious identification to a police officer.

Eventually, and after plenty of work, the case was dismissed and refiled as a Class C, fine only offense (in addition to the MIP). After successfully completing the deferred for the Class C, the Class A arrest was subsequently (2 years after arrest) expunged.

Unfortunately, problems caused by Alice's arrest persisted.

Although expunged Alice wanted to go to work for the aforementioned Service Organization after she graduated from TAMU. When she googled herself in preparation for the application process, a organization I have mentioned before, "Mugshots.com" still had the arrest and prosecution record up. They demurred when asked to take it down, saying they were a Belize LLC and not bound by the laws or the State of Texas. Ultimately mugshots.com was dealt with, but Alice was having to deal with this arrest some four years after it occurred, and a full two years after it had been expunged.

I get that she could have avoided the whole thing by upping her real identity and taking the hit on the MIP. But does her snap judgment to lie, followed almost immediately by her upping her actual name and date of birth, justify all that happened? Maybe. Consider this, though: When you throw 18- 23 year old hybrid children/adults together in a hormone filled atmosphere stoked by legal sale of alcohol to some, but not all of their patrons, what in the name of Sam Hill do you think is going to happen?

 Good golly, I am sure what happened to Alice is a scenario of rinse, dry, repeat every night in college bars in Austin, San Marcos and Lubbock. Well, maybe not Austin.

Bar owners want the benefit of having the 18-20 year olds, particularly the females, in their bars. It's about the money. But, for the love of Pete, something should be done in a world of instant access to criminal records, even if expunged, and websites like mugshots.com that, regardless of the later legal annulment of the arrest, want money to delete record of it.

More to come later on exupnction, a term thrown around much, but little understood. Alice got her job with the service organization and when I last spoke to her was doing great. It is just a shame it took so long to get her from point A to B.

Many without the financial resources she had available would not have gotten there. That is the real shame.

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