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Iowa City Council To Look At Drinking Offenses

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Iowa City Council will discuss potential changes to criminal drinking offenses during a work session Tuesday night, although changes don't appear likely based on a memo from the city manager and attorney to the council.

According to the memo, the council recently asked staff to look into whether the city can change various drinking offenses from criminal charges to civil penalties. Such a change would likely reduce the future criminal records of many college-aged students living in the area.

The Iowa City police department has issued nearly 500 underage possession of alcohol (PAULA) tickets since January of 2013. During that same span, they arrested roughly 1,100 people for public intoxication. The two offenses makes up about 84 percent of drinking charges issued by police.

"Staff recommends against the creation of a civil infraction for PAULA principally, because PAULA can be expunged after two years," City manager Tom Markus and city attorney Eleanor Dilkes wrote in the memo. "Staff recommends against the creation of a civil offense for public intoxication both because public intoxication can be expunged after two years and nearly all persons charged with public intoxication are arrested for safety reasons and a civil charge does not allow for arrest."

The council will not take formal action Tuesday night, but could lay the groundwork for future changes. They could also decide to seek no further action after their discussion.