Niagara Gazette — What happens to a teen if they're charged with underage drinking or caught with marijuana and fail to show up for their appearance in town court?
Nothing. The town justices' hands are tied, according to state law.
Amel S. Jowdy, Cambria Town Justice, and the New York State Magistrates Association are lobbying to change the law. It's among the things the 104-year-old organization of town and village justices do.
The ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) Law amendment is on the agenda.
Jowdy is president of the association, the first Niagara County justice to hold the position. He was sworn into the office at the annual meeting in Lake Placid in September.
"The courts closest to the people" lobby the legislature for changes. The association is 3,150 strong in the state which has about 932 towns.
Jowdy's father, Amel S. Jowdy Sr., held the position in Cambria for 28 years and used to hold court at his kitchen table before remodeling the woodshed at hisRidge Road home. When his father retired in 1996, Amel Jowdy Jr. succeeded his dad and has court in the Cambria Town Hall for 17 years.
The magistrates association's legislation committee put five items on the agenda this year.
"There are changes we want to see in Albany," Jowdy said. "Right now, the biggest thing we're trying to have changed what we call the ABC Bill. The way the law reads, if you don't come to court, I can't do a thing to you. I can't put a warrant out for your arrest."
The justice can't do anything if the violator comes to court, but does not fulfill the sentence. Jowdy said he has a drawer full of cases he's unable to act upon.
"The ABC Law and the 221 (ABC-65c and PL221.05) marijuana law, as it stands, there are no penalties if you don't show up in court," the judge said. "We want that changed in Albany."