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Laguna Beach boosts fines for drinking in public and littering

A seagull tears up fast food trash in a super market parking lot in Laguna Beach on Wednesday afternoon.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Laguna Beach will increase the fines associated with drinking in public and littering to bring them into alignment with the fine schedule associated with other violations of its municipal code.

The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved the ordinance, which will make a first-time offense for the two violations $100. A second offense within a period of a year will now be $200, and a third within that time frame will cost those caught in the act $500.

Previously, the penalties applied to alcohol consumption in public were $30 for a first offense, $60 for the second and a misdemeanor for any successive occurrences. For littering, the fines started at $25 for first-timers, $50 for a second offense and $100 for further violations.

Laguna Beach Police Chief Robert Thompson said the item was brought forward with the intent to aid the cleanup of the town by means of deterring nuisance behaviors that were “impacting the quality of life in the community,” while also eliminating inconsistencies in the fine schedule for violations of the municipal code.

“What we found was some people would go out to the beach to have drinks,” Thompson said in a phone interview on Thursday, so the modest fine currently in place has not been a deterrent to the code violation.

“We have anecdotal information that in the off chance that they actually got caught, they would look at it and say, ‘Well, $30 is the cost of admission to a good club, so if I can go drinking all day on the beach, and eventually, I get caught, I pay a $30 fine. So what? That’s no big deal. I’ll pay the fine. That’s what it costs me to get into the club, and I can enjoy drinking on the beach all day,” he said.

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