Asst. Police Chief Talks About Alcohol Laws
by Adam Becerra '12
February 11, 2009
With every new 6-Pack talk comes a new speaker ready to educate Wabash students on alcohol. The fourth 6-Pack talk was no exception with Assistant Crawfordsville Police Chief Hal Utterback. Contrary to the title of the talk, "Got gut? Learn How to lose when you booze" was no health session on losing weight. Instead the speech gave an inside view from someone who upholds the law in our town. The only losing that was discussed was the losses dealing with unlawful drinking.
He went straight to business discussing the legal risks dealing with alcohol. He explained for consumption, possession, or transportation of alcohol underage one can be charged with a C-misdemeanor, receive up to 60 days in jail, and/or a combination of a $500 dollar fine.
"What a lot of guys don’t know is that a court could order your license suspended for up to a year. For a kid 18 or 19 years old not having your license is probably a lot worse than a $500 fine as far as a penalty." he said.
He also made clear that furnishing alcohol to a minor is an increased punishment because one is charged with a B-misdemeanor, can receive up to 180 days in jail and a $1000 dollar fine. If repeated, the offender receives a much worse sentence being charged with an A-misdemeanor, subject to a year in prison, and a $5,000 dollar fine.
Utterback also talked about a previous 6-Pack session where Heather Perkins said citizens can refuse a breathalyzer. "When you sign your license you agree to take a breath test if it is offered by a law enforcement officer, or a urine test or blood test. So, yes, you have the right to refuse a breath test but if you do that you are probably going to lose your license for a year. If you take it and are found guilty you might lose your license for six months."
Utterback stressed not to resist if you are ever in the misfortune of being arrested. "The days of fighting people are gone." He made clear that an officer will not try to wrestle you down if you will not comply. The officer nowadays will just taze you and be done with it if you refuse to comply. "Every single one of you knows you’re not supposed to drink until your 21, if do and your caught deal with it. Take your punishment, take your fine, chances are you won’t go to prison for the first time."
Utterback also talked about recent events regarding Olympic hero Michael Phelps and what he will have to live with for the rest of his life, because of one mistake. "Here’s a guy who’s got the world by the tail and could probably write his own ticket for any kind of endorsement he wants. And one of his good buddies took a picture of him ‘toking’ on a bong, and a million dollars worth of endorsements were gone just like that. We live in such an information world that things you do can come back and bite you."
Utterback struck a chord in the students when he said "The bottom line is guys that until the law changes live by it. If you don’t like the law, don’t ignore it, try to get it changed. Laws change all the time. But until the law is changed don’t ignore it."
One such change has been discussion to change the drinking age to 18. "My philosophy would be no way," Utterback said. "Some colleges wanted to do it so they wouldn’t have to mess with it. If the drinking age is 21 and I have to deal with 18 and 19 year olds every weekend drinking underage and they lower the drinking age to 18; who am I going to be dealing with drinking underage? 17, 16, 15 year olds will be the next ones to start. I think lowering the drinking age to 18 would be a huge mistake."
Utterback ended by suggesting that taking the high ground and being the one who watches over others can be hard, but worth it in the end. He told a story of arresting a relative and being criticized at first by family but that it ultimately paid off. "I told my relative I’d rather see him pissed off at me, than standing over him in a coffin wishing I had done something different."
Utterback came with an impressive resume, which brought validity and a comprehensive knowledge for his talk. Utterback has been a police officer since July 1979, was the first DARE officer in Crawfordsville, worked through the middle school for about ten years, and a part of the SWAT team for 20-25 years. Utterback was born and raised in Crawfordsville, and although he never attended Wabash he has been very active in the school the past couple years. Utterback has worked security for the past seven years at basketball games giving him experience with Wabash men .
Kenneth Farris ’12 thought the speaker was clear and descriptive. "I think people were a little more aware of the legal effects of alcohol after attending." Farris also commented on the effectiveness of the 6-Pack talks on a whole.
"I think the War Council is getting itself out there as an organization that can curtail the use of alcohol at Wabash. I don’t think there were enough people there to affect the campus as a whole, but by bringing speakers like the officer today the college is doing well to make known the effects of alcohol.