[This article was written by Josh Sampson, an Acadia University student charged with mischief during a September 2016 house party which grew out of control. This article was written as a part of his reparations for this conviction.]
Early September marks the beginning of a new school year for students at Acadia University. For many upper year students it can also mark the start of new off-campus living arrangements. Although living off-campus for the first time is exciting, there are a couple things you need to know when preparing to live on your own for the first time. The most important pieces of advice I can give students is to be aware of your surroundings and be courteous to your neighbors. Unfortunately, I learned these lessons the hard way.
On September 12th 2015, my five roommates and I decided to throw a party to celebrate being reunited after a long summer apart from each other. We originally invited approximately 50 people. The party began to spiral out of control after word of the celebration spread on multiple social media platforms. By the end of the night the party was exceptionally large. There were over 250 people scattered throughout our house, adjacent properties, and onto a busy street. Police arrived after receiving multiple noise complaints from our neighbors. Several of the attendees were charged with public intoxication, before we were told that we had to shut the party down. To my roommates and I, we didn’t think this night was any different from the previous parties we had hosted.
This feeling changed three months later when three of my roommates received fines under the Excessive Noise Prevention By-law totaling $1,058. This by-law was recently updated due to the ongoing noise complaints in the Wolfville area. For first time offenders the fine is $352.50, but can increase up to $1157.50 for repeat offenders. Many students can relate to the fact that it would be very hard to pay these fines on a strict student budget. Looking back, I would have done whatever I could to pay the fine, because my punishment was much worse. I was charged with mischief, which is defined by the Criminal Code of Canada as anyone who willingly:
- Destroys or damages property
- Renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective
- Obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property
- Obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property
As an individual who has never had any run-ins with the police before this incident, it was frightening to know that this was all caused by my roommates and I deciding to host a party that got out of control. It was even more frightening to know that I could potentially have a criminal record during the most important years of my life. After researching the effect of having a criminal record, the information I found was shocking. A criminal conviction, or even a discharge where you’re found guilty but not convicted, could restrict your ability to travel abroad. This means that some countries, including the United States, could refuse you entry. Additionally, a criminal record could prevent you from obtaining a job in a chosen field. Many professional bodies require that their employees be of “good character” and may reject applicants convicted of certain crimes. These consequences would have a profound effect on a recently graduated students looking start a careers in their respective fields. To determine whether you receive a criminal record or not, you must first go through the criminal justice process. This includes finding a lawyer, having your mug shot taken, getting finger printed, and showing up to multiple court dates. As you read my story you might think that you have never heard of something like this happening. The truth is that stories such as mine are going to become more prevalent as the town of Wolfville ramps up their efforts to control the disconnect between students and full time residents.
By telling my story and explaining the consequences of my actions I hope to prevent Acadia’s off-campus students from making similar mistakes. The key to preventing being issued a monetary fine or charged with a summary offence is to be conscious and realistic. Remember, we are not only students, but also Wolfville residents and we want to maintain and preserve relationships within the community. Although students are only part-time residents of Wolfville, for many people it is their home. It is the place they choose to start families, raise children, or enjoy retirement. Students must learn to respect their neighbors because it is just as much their town, as it is ours. Please talk to your neighbours before having a party and be reasonable with noise levels. For further information regarding the Excessive Noise Prevention Bylaw, feel free to visit the Acadia Students’ Union website or the Acadia Off Campus Students Facebook page.