GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota students may soon not have to worry about getting a criminal charge for hosting a loud house party.
Under a current Grand Forks city ordinance, a person attending a gathering of two or more people that disturbs neighbors with "unreasonable noise" can be fined $300 and charged with a Class B misdemeanor. Police normally issue the tickets when party goers refuse to disperse.
A Grand Forks City councilman who serves in the UND Police Department wants to change that, questioning the fairness of putting a noisy party in the same category as what some might consider more severe offenses.
"(It would) be equal to driving under the influence, almost being two times the legal limit for a DUI and you could be having four of your friends over watching a football game,” said Ward 1 Councilman Danny Weigel, who has introduced a proposal to drop the misdemeanor charge for first time offenses.
In a letter proposing the changes, Weigel said he has support of other members of the council and citizens of Grand Forks.
It's a proposal many UND students welcome, especially those worried a criminal charge could get in the way of applying for graduate school or jobs.
"If they see that you have a misdemeanor on your record it's definitely going to hurt you," said junior Sarah Baron.
If the proposal is approved, the $300 fine would remain in place and a second offense within the same year would still be a misdemeanor.
Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson hasn't yet made up his mind if he is for or against the change, but told the Grand Forks City Council at its Monday night meeting that they should be cautious about the effects it might have.
"We're bending over for the people that are hosting the party that are worried about their career," Nelson said, telling the council he had concerns about the proposal in it's current form.
"I do understand where you are coming from at face value, not wanting to harm someone's career — I get that — but I've got to think of all sides here," Nelson continued, saying he will need to discuss the matter with the city prosecutor before he makes up his mind.
The Grand Forks City Council will take public input on the proposed changes at its meetings next month.