Cape Girardeau's Nuisance Party Ordinance: 9 Things Everyone Should Know

Have a celebration at your home. Invite your friends. We hope you have a great time. Just make sure you’re doing so safely, neighborly, and lawfully.
The City of Cape Girardeau has ordinances regarding nuisance parties and individual, illegal acts that could occur at some parties. Residents can voice complaints about nuisance activities of all kinds, including parties, through the City’s website or by calling 573-335-6621 ext. 1.
1.  So, what exactly is a “Nuisance” Party?
A Nuisance Party is a social gathering of 10 or more people on residential property that results in any of the following illegal activities occurring at the site of the gathering, on neighboring property, or on an adjacent public street:

  • Unlawful sale, furnishing, possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages (such as underage drinking);
  • Violation of any of the provisions of Section 17-156 to 17-158 of the noise ordinances;
  • Fighting; property damage; littering;
  • Outdoor urination or defecation in a place open to public view;
  • The standing or parking of vehicles in a manner that obstructs the free flow of traffic;
  • Conduct that threatens injury to persons or damage to property;
  • Unlawful use or possession of marijuana or any drug or controlled substance;
  • Trespassing; or indecent exposure.

2.  How do I submit a nuisance ordinance or party complaint? 
Anyone who wishes to submit information about any nuisance violations (weeds, trash, etc.) or nuisance parties can do so through our website: cityofcape.org.
3.  What happens if my party receives complaints? What’s the outcome of violations?
A party will be “broken up” when a complaint has been registered with the Police Department and at least one of the items listed above has taken place. If your guests have engaged in any of the listed items, with or without your knowledge, then ordinances have been violated and law enforcement can legally intervene and request that your party-goers disperse. Section C of the Nuisance Party ordinance includes:

Police order to disperse. Cape Girardeau police officers are authorized to order those attending a nuisance party to disperse. It shall be unlawful for any person not domiciled at the site of the nuisance party to fail or refuse to leave the premises immediately after being told to leave by a Cape Girardeau police officer.

If folks are asked to leave your party by Police, several options are available for public transportation of those who may be intoxicated. Several private companies in the area provide taxi services, Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority buses may be available, and more.
At parties where City Ordinance(s) have been broken, a citation may be issued to the party’s hosts. Fines can be issued up to $500 and a maximum jail sentence of 90 days. The fine or sentence is ultimately based on the incident’s severity and the judge’s discretion.
In other words, if you host the party you’re responsible for your guests and their behavior on your property – it doesn’t matter if it’s Homecoming weekend or Thanksgiving dinner – or if you own or rent your residence.
4.  Does this mean I can only have a certain number of people in my house or apartment?
You can have as many people attend your party as you wish as long as ordinances are not being violated. Make sure your friends, and anyone else who shows up to hang out, aren’t doing anything that disrespects your property, your neighbors’ property, or could get you in trouble. We want you to enjoy yourselves, legally and safely.
If more people show up to your party than you have invited, ask those people to leave. If they do not leave, call the Police Department and have them removed from your property. This helps eliminate future problems at your residence.
5.  Why does Cape Girardeau have the Nuisance Party ordinance? How did the Nuisance Party ordinance begin?
Several years ago, a group of residents living near the Southeast Missouri State University campus met together in support of what the City Council eventually did: asking City staff to draft the Nuisance Party ordinance. Residents were looking for possible enforcement options to help them feel safe and abide peacefully. The resident group and staff both researched other towns’ party ordinances, and the current ordinance was drafted and approved by the City Council.
Cape Girardeau’s Police Department works with Southeast Missouri State University’s Department of Public Safety (SEMO DPS) to enforce the Nuisance Party ordinances as requested of City Council by area residents.
6.  Is Cape Girardeau unique in having these types of ordinances?
No! Because it is reasonable of the public to expect to live peacefully and without disturbances, many other towns and cities have enacted similar ordinances. Springfield and Columbia, Missouri both have ordinances related to parties. Other cities with similar laws have even steeper consequences for offenders than Cape Girardeau’s ordinance prescribes.
7.  But, are parties even really an issue? How do I know you’re not just picking on my party?Yes, Nuisance Parties can be an issue. If an officer shows up at your door during a fiesta, it’s more than likely because a neighbor has been adversely affected by your party and submitted a party complaint.
Statistics on the number of parties and other disorderly house reports show that we’re not just picking on one party, or one house or tenant. From when the Nuisance Party ordinance took effect in June 2011 to the time of this blog post, 88 Nuisance Parties have been charged with violations, and 29 citations have been issued for disorderly homes. That’s roughly 2.25 parties or homes charged with violations per month.
Suffice it to say: Most parties the Police Department never even knows about and most citizens, whether they’re students or not, are pretty considerate neighbors.
8.  Why aren’t you focusing on other crimes in the City? Aren’t they more important than parties?
Yes, we take any threat to the public’s safety and security seriously. We’re here to serve the greater good, no matter what that may be. If citizens are repeatedly bothered by items like loud music at all hours of the night, public urination and other illegal activities, we take that seriously as well. It is reasonable for people to expect that their quality of life isn’t negatively affected simply because their neighbors have friends over to visit. Therefore, even if you do not feel they are, party offenses and other nuisances are taken seriously.
9.  I have questions and concerns about my rights, both as a neighbor or party-goer. I feel like students aren’t being heard. Who do I contact?
If anyone has questions or concerns about the ordinances, or Nuisance Parties, contact the Police Department and your City Council representative.
Students are citizens of Cape Girardeau for your time here. You’re also entitled to speak with your Council and Police representatives to discuss the matters at hand.