Simone agreed to this interview with the Dalhousie Gazette on the condition of anonymity to avoid interference with current legal proceedings.
On the night of Sept. 9, Simone was charged upwards of $935 in fines for holding an almost empty can of open alcoholic cider while waiting at a crosswalk.
She was standing with her friends in downtown Halifax when a white unmarked car approached. The driver, who was a police officer, stepped out and asked her what was in her hand and how old she was.
“The situation was completely shocking to me,” Simone said.
Simone received two tickets, one for illegally consuming liquor underage and one for illegally possessing liquor, each with a fine of $467.50. She didn’t know it was possible to be charged for holding an open can of alcohol.
“I’m not from Canada and where I’m from the legal drinking age is 18. I walk around at home with open liquor all the time so I didn’t think twice about it,” she said.
Many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and even parts of Canada allow drinking in public. In Montreal, Quebec, it’s legal to drink alcohol in parks as long as it’s being consumed in picnic areas with food.
Tickets and Fines
“Had I known that it was genuinely illegal and I could be fined almost $500 for each ticket I would have just thrown it out before I entered a busy intersection and it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.”
The Dal Student Life website has a post about underage drinking, and avoiding fines in Halifax. Not all students are aware of the post.
If more students, especially underage students, were aware of the strict open alcohol laws, the community would be safer,” said Simone. “If incoming students knew that drinking in public comes with such a large fine they might think twice about doing it.”
John MacLeod, Public Information Officer for the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) clarified why these public intoxication tickets are distributed in Halifax.
“Much of it depends on the situation, the more disruption and issues that are caused in a public space, the more likely it’ll be called to our attention,” said MacLeod.
Though the fine depends on the specific instance, MacLeod was able to provide the Gazette with a standard fine price for different intoxication misdemeanours. He claimed being intoxicated at 19 or older in a public place is $134, drinking under age is $295 and possessing open liquor in a public space, of age or underage is $467.50.
Though MacLeod said the cost for underage drinking is $295 in Halifax, Simone was fined $467.50.
He stressed having open alcohol is a serious offence that will result in ticketing.
Dalhousie first-year Emma Bourbon was not aware of how seriously the HRP takes underage drinking and the possession of open alcohol.
“I think that at a party where there’s a lot of people that are drinking and everybody has open alcohol, it just feels normal.”
Elizabeth McLaughlin, another Dalhousie first-year, previously thought underage drinking was no big deal.
“I had no idea it was that much of a fine or that it was so easy to get a ticket,” said McLaughlin.
MacLeod ensures the HRP is taking the ticketing seriously for the good of the community.
“We do our best to educate students and people that come into our community just so they know what the expectations are,” he said.