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Alcohol Laws and Enforcement

Laws and Policies

Enforcement and Accountability


The enforcement agencies use both traditional and innovative tools - many described here - to reinforce the community standards expressed in the existing laws, policies and codes. Students need and deserve this protection as much as any other member of the community. Contrary to public perception, most students want campus and city police to make neighborhoods safer. Given alcohol's role in violence and unintentional injury, fair and consistent enforcement of the alcohol laws and policies are fundamental to achieving overall community safety and quality of life.

Campus Accountability Activities

When Student Conduct receives information that a student may have engaged in behavior that violates the Berkeley Campus Code of Conduct, the student is contacted and asked to meet with Student Conduct to discuss the incident and the possible charges. Students have the opportunity to resolve this matter through an informal resolution with Student Conduct. If the student accepts the resolution, he/she needs to fulfill the sanctions outlined. Student Conduct may decide at this time to further investigate, to drop the charges, or to issue a notification. If the student does not want to accept the resolution or wants to go to a hearing, or if Student Conduct feels it is appropriate, the case will go to a hearing to be resolved. Information will be provided to the hearing panel/hearing officer, including any information provided by the student. At the hearing, the panel/officer reviews the information and listens to information from Student Conduct, the respondent, and any witnesses. The hearing panel/hearing officer will determine if the student is responsible or not responsible for any or all of the alleged charges. If the hearing panel/hearing officer determines that the student is responsible for some or all of the charges, the hearing panel/hearing officer will recommend sanctions appropriate to that incident. Sanctions aim to help the student reflect on his/her actions so that they are congruent with the standards of the community, to repair any harm caused, and sometimes to remove the student from the campus if warranted. The decision of the hearing panel/hearing officer is issued by the Dean of Students, who has the ability to adjust the sanctions. Appeals may occur by writing to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

Football Game Student entrance gate enforcementis conducted by UCPD. Officers are primarily enforcing the Campus Student Conduct Code, though they may also cite/arrest for city and state violations if the situation warrants it. For example, public drunkenness, regardless of age, can lead to arrest and jail. UCPD officers monitor for underage or excessive alcohol use as evidenced by observable signs and behaviors after students enter the ticket gates, i.e. motor skills, walking, skin flush, eyes, and, if contacted, how the student participates in that interaction. Officers breathalyze students to establish a general quantity of alcohol use for the purpose of awareness. Because it is not for legal purposes, students can refuse to blow into the breathalyzer regardless of age. Underage drinking is an automatic UCPD citation and entry to the game denied. Football Game citations are shared with Student Conduct. Students must contact the Student Conduct office within a certain period of time and make an appointment to meet with a campus conduct officer. At the meeting, the case will be reviewed and sanctions, which typically include a $100 fine, will be determined.

City Enforcement Activities

Both city and campus police have received extra grant funding over the past several years specifically to increase their underage drinking enforcement operations and Berkeley has become a role model for college campus communities around the state. The police use a variety of explicit and undercover strategies. They are:

  • Safety Patrols to reduce loud, late, unruly gatherings and parties by swiftly responding and investigating complaint calls.
  • Compliance Checks to limit the access to alcohol by young people who are not of legal drinking age by enforcing laws prohibiting the sale and furnishing to or purchase of alcohol by minors.
  • DUI Check Points to draw attention to the risks of alcohol-impaired driving, especially for young adults.

Safety Patrols

UCPD and Berkeley Police conduct joint Safety Patrols Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights regularly throughout the academic year. The joint teams are largely made up of officers who are very familiar with the area around the campus. They respond quickly to concerns and complaints about parties and noise, thus reducing the drain on the police serving the remainder of the community. Safety Patrols impact the alcohol-related negative consequences of off-campus parties most directly.

If police are called because of a loud or unruly gathering or party, they will respond and investigate. If police observe things that make them suspect that any criminal activity is taking place, including underage drinking, they can enter the house, apartment, etc. to investigate. Their primary concern is public safety. A secondary question is whether the gathering constitutes a Public Nuisance (BMC 13.48.020). The criteria for a public nuisance include:

  • hindering the quiet enjoyment of significant portions of the neighborhood;
  • ten or more people;
  • excessive noise or traffic;
  • obstruction of public streets by crowds or vehicles;
  • public drunkenness;
  • serving alcohol to minors;
  • fights or disturbances of the peace; and/or
  • litter.

If it is a public nuisance violation, you are subject to the Second Response Ordinance (BMC 13.48.050), and you'll be getting a letter from Student Conduct that describes your public nuisance violation and asks you to make different decisions next time or a letter requesting you meet with Student Conduct regarding your public nuisance violation.

Remember, the Second Response Ordinance (BMC 13.48.050) is designed to:

  • reduce the likelihood that police will be called to the same public nuisance gathering - often an off-campus party - again and again in the same night over a semester; and
  • hold residents and property owners accountable for the cost of law enforcement's repeated responses if they continue to receive and respond to complaints of noise, crowds or other nuisances.

The Second Response Ordinance outlines the penalties below:

  • 1st violation - a warning, public notice (required to post "Exhibit A" in plain sight at the property), and order to disperse the gathering;
  • 2nd violation at that property within the next 120 days (including the same night) - automatic fine of $750;
  • 3rd violation at that property within the next 120 days (including the same night) - automatic fine of $1500;
  • Subsequent violations can occur and fines continue to increase.

Technically, the penalties can result in the "joint and several" liability of:

  • All guests causing the nuisance;
  • All sponsors of the gathering;
  • All residents of the premises;
  • All persons in control of the premises; and
  • All owners of the premises that reside on or adjacent to the premises, or are present at the premises when the warning notice is posted.

If you're at a party that starts to get out of control, call the police before someone else does. Breaking up your own party can save a lot of money and problems later on.

The City of Berkeley will notify property owners and managers of the citations, since unpaid fines for citations issued to their tenants could result in liens being placed on the owners' property. To see a list of residences that have been cited (including date of violation and when warning period ends) click here.

These laws and ordinances have been enforced in the past, but the new joint safety patrols by the University of California Police Department and the Berkeley Police Department will more efficiently and consistently address all aspects of unlawful activity and allow for closer coordination between community partners - the officers, campus leaders, students and their Berkeley neighbors.

Compliance Checks

Shoulder Tap Program
ABC and local law enforcement use this decoy program to detect and deter alcohol availability to minors who stand outside of liquor stores or markets and ask adults to buy them alcohol. During the program, a minor decoy, under the direct supervision of law enforcement officers, solicits adults outside ABC licensed stores to buy the minor decoy alcohol. Any person seen furnishing alcohol to the minor decoy is arrested (either cited or booked) for furnishing alcohol to a minor. If you are 21 or over, and are caught furnishing alcohol to an underage person, the penalty is $250 to $1000 fine, a minimum of 24 to 32 hours community service to a maximum 6 months in county jail. (BPC 25658)

Operation Trapdoor
ABC and local law enforcement work side by side in this activity to prevent minors from purchasing alcohol with fake IDs. "Fake" IDs include counterfeit and altered IDs as well as IDs that are real, but borrowed from another person. ABC and local law enforcement use Trapdoor in conjunction with ABC licensed outlets. The store, bar or restaurant contacts law enforcement when they have a person with a fake ID at their business. Since roving teams are in the area, the response time is nearly immediate. They arrest, interview, and cite the minor or, in extreme cases, take the minor into custody. If you are under 21 and caught with a fake ID the penalty is a minimum $250 fine and/or 24-32 hours of community service, or a maximum of $1000 fine and/or six months in the county jail, PLUS...a one year suspension of your drivers license. If you don't yet have one, you'll have to wait an extra year to get one.

Minor Decoy Operations
Minor Decoy Compliance Checks are when an enforcement officer waits outside the premises while a person under age 21 attempts to purchase or order an alcoholic beverage. If the establishment sells alcohol to the young person, the enforcement officer issues a citation to the seller/server and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) may take disciplinary action against the business where the sale occurred. That may include a fine, suspension or revocation of the alcoholic beverage license. Berkeley businesses where Sales of Alcohol to Minors occur receive a notice to appear before the Oakland office of the ABC. They face increased penalties for multiple violations. A first time violation may result in a license suspension of 15 days or a fine of $750 to $3000 (based on annual sales volume). The vast majority of licensees elect to pay the fine rather than suspend alcohol sales for fifteen days. A second sale to a minor within a three year period is an automatic license suspension of 25 days. A third sale to a minor within a three year period may result in license revocation.

Clerks and servers who illegally sell alcohol to minors in Berkeley receive a ticket and a notice to appear before the Traffic Division of the Superior Court of Alameda where their fine is determined. According to Alameda County bail schedule, the minimum fine is $250 and the maximum is $1000.

In 1994, the California Supreme court ruled that use of minor decoys was not entrapment and did not violate due process requirements. The police and decoys must follow strict guidelines. Regulations require that the decoy shall: be less than 20 years of age; display the appearance which could generally be expected of a person under 21 years of age; carry his or her own identification showing the decoy's correct date of birth or shall carry no identification; present their identification upon request to any seller of alcoholic beverages; and answer truthfully any questions about his or her age.

Anyone with information on establishments selling alcoholic beverages to minors is asked to call Berkeley Police Department at 510-981-5900 or UCPD at 510-642-6760 or the ABC Oakland Office at 510-622-4975.

Sobriety Checkpoints and Saturation Patrols
At sobriety checkpoints officers evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment at certain points on the roadway. Vehicles are stopped in a specific sequence, such as every other vehicle or every fourth, fifth or sixth vehicle. Saturation patrols are concentrated enforcement efforts that target impaired drivers by observing moving violations such as drunk driving, speeding and aggressive driving. In California, a DUI can cost anywhere between $5,200 to $10,000, including vehicle towing and storage, increases in auto insurance premiums, fines, court assessments, DUI classes, attorney fees and more. So regardless of what you may be celebrating, plan your activities with safety in mind. If you are using alcohol, don't over drink or over serve. Pace yourself and don't encourage or force anyone to drink. Whether host or guest, plan for safe transportation in advance and stick to your plan.

If you see someone trying to drive impaired, notify local law enforcement in the Berkeley area at 510-981-5911. Elsewhere call 911 from your cell phone and give the location, description, and, if possible, the license plate number of the vehicle. Don't try to stop, follow or detain the vehicle - leave that to the officers in the field. Some warning signs of a drunk driver include straddling lanes or driving on the center line, driving with headlights off at night, erratic braking or stopping without cause, slow response to traffic signals, turning wide, almost striking another vehicle, following too closely and weaving or zigzagging across the road.


PartySafe@Cal is a program of University Health Services in collaboration with other campus and community organizations.
The mission is to reduce harm associated with drinking in the campus area.
To volunteer or for more information call 510-642-7202 or email