Local News

Duke Underage Drinking Cases Move To Courtroom

Posted October 28, 2005

— Alcohol Law Enforcement agents were overzealous and did not do their jobs right, according to defense attorneys representing eight Duke University students on underage drinking charges.

In late August, Durham police and Alcohol Law Enforcement officers cited approximately 200 Duke students for underage drinking during the first week of classes after officers raided three parties at houses off-campus in the Trinity Park area.

Earlier in October, many of the students cited agreed to pay a $200 fine, perform community service and write a paper about how alcohol affects the body, but some of the students said their rights were violated and took their case to court.

During a court hearing Thursday, ALE Agent Israel Morrow, who posed as a Duke freshman to get into one of the parties, described a house at 1206 Mangum St. packed with upwards of 150 people who were inside drinking, smoking and "going wild."

"He just chugged a beer and then put the beer cup on his head," Morrow said in court.

He testified that when he realized many of the people were underage and drinking illegally, he called for backup. Eight officers responded, surrounded the house and would not let anyone leave until they proved that they were over 21 years old or sober.

Defense attorneys argued that by keeping the students inside the house, officers were detaining them without reading them their rights. They also contended that officers entered the house without permission and without a warrant.

"You can't just barge into houses," defense attorney Bill Cotter told WRAL. "You have to do it right. If they had applied for a search warrant and gotten a search warrant, we wouldn't be here."

More ALE agents were expected to take the stand Friday. If District Court Judge Craig Brown decides in the students' favor, the charges will be dropped against them. A decision could also affect other cases where students pleaded guilty to the citations.

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