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Unclear ordinance gives officials pause on pepper spray

July 27, 2014

“We’re clarifying to make certain everybody’s on the same page,” MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said.

McGlothian-Taylor said students may carry and use pepper spray if they are using it to defend themselves and still be within the guidelines of the university ordinance on weapons.

“If you have it and you’re being attacked by someone you can use it,” she said. “But if you were to have it and say you used it within the residence halls — you know just to be using it — you can’t do that. Then you would be in violation.”

Sgt. Mcglothian-Taylor also said students must take state regulations on pepper spray into consideration.

Michigan law states “the reasonable use of a self-defense spray or foam device containing not more than 10 percent oleoresin capsicum by a person in the protection of a person or property under circumstances that would justify the person’s use of physical force,” as a permissible.

As long as a person follows the guidelines of state law — using a self-defense spray that contains not more than 10 percent oleoresin capsicum — and carries the spray with the intent to use it in self defense, they would not be violating the ordinance.

The previous confusion university officials expressed poses the question of whether or not the ordinance is ambiguous.

Criminal defense lawyer George Zalukis, of Baird and Zalukis P.C., said the university ordinance “might be vague enough that police might be telling you one thing but could say pepper spray isn’t covered.”

Jim Newton of ASMSU legal counsel disagreed.

“I really think that if the ordinance had been scrutinized a little more closely this wouldn’t be such a controversy,” Newton said.

He also said he thought the point of the ordinance was not to outlaw chemical weapons.

“I think in general they (university officials) don’t like the idea of weapons on campus,’’ Newton said.

McGlothian-Taylor said the state law does not supersede university ordinance and if a person were to use pepper spray off-campus with the intent of injuring, molesting or coercing another, they would be in violation of state law, according to the way the law is written.

Newton said intent could be determined or interpreted through acts and testimony — usually in a court of law. While he said intent could be something a prosecutor could argue in court, it would have to be left up to the judge.

McGlothian-Taylor would not discuss how to determine intent.

“I’m not going to get into that. What I want to do is make certain people understand what the ordinance is saying,” she said. “The whole key is...say you have it, somebody comes up to you and they attempt to attack you. You use it to protect yourself.”

“You can’t just go up to someone and spray them for the sake of spraying them because that would be the intent of using to molest or coerce,” McGlothian-Taylor said.

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