As if jail isn't bad enough, disruptive fans at Lambeau face $880 in fines
Game day fans at Lambeau Field know their numbers. Aaron Rodgers, No. 12; Eddie Lacy, No. 27; Clay Matthews, No. 52.
A draft beer costs around $8. Parking varies from $15 to $50.
But there's one number not publicized on game day: $880.
That's the fine levied for an unlawful conduct at a public event citation. Fans are dinged even more if they're also cited for resisting arrest or other criminal conduct.
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Talk about a Lambeau Field experience you'd rather forget.
Collectively, fans were fined an estimated $58,535 by the City of Green Bay Municipal Court for disruptive behavior during last season's home games, the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team determined.
Six home games resulted in total fines exceeding $6,000. Last November's Chicago Bears game drew the harshest fines from the municipal courts: $10,665.
The judge for Green Bay's Municipal Court said he doubts posting large signs around the concourse or within the bathrooms to warn spectators of the $880 unlawful conduct fine would prevent fan misconduct on game day.
"OK, maybe there's one less arrest there," judge Jerry Hanson told Gannett Wisconsin Media. "Even if you put up signs, the whole world is full of signs. And I don't think people are trying to get arrested or ejected, but they have a few glasses of alcohol, and they party too hard."
The game-day crowd is reminded over the public address system that violating the league's fan code of conduct could result in an ejection. The public address announcer also reminds fans to text unruly behavior to stadium security staff.
However, awareness about the $880 fine for committing unlawful conduct at a public event has not been publicized by the Packers.
“Our focus is more on the fan experience and making sure our fans and visitors are able to enjoy their day at Lambeau Field,” said Aaron Popkey, director of public affairs for the Packers. “Our season-ticket holder handbook, our website and stadium announcements all refer to the code of conduct and our expectations.
“Ejection and possible arrest are possible repercussions to unacceptable behavior. We don’t have any current plans to post signage,” Popkey said.
Some arrested fans are later "shocked at the price" of the unlawful conduct ticket, but fans need to realize "you're there at Lambeau Field by invitation of the Packers," said Kristen Bohnert, assistant city attorney.
Fine seems appropriate
Green Bay's municipal judge said he does not consider the $880 fine excessive. The amount includes court costs.
"In my mind, that $880 is an appropriate fee," Hanson said. "I think it's appropriate, and it's along the lines of the drunk driving (fines.)"
Using Wisconsin's Public Records laws, the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team analyzed last season's 67 arrests at Lambeau Field and reviewed the dispositions.
Ten people were fined $880 for unlawful conduct, plus another $880 for resisting arrest — a whopping $1,760 in penalties. At least five others were fined at least $1,300 for their game-day misconduct.
On occasion, Hanson acknowledged, he may "cut a small break" for fans who realize their wayward behavior. He said he takes the circumstances of their arrest incident into account. "Usually, they are pretty humble when they show up for court," Hanson said. "They're like, 'hey, judge, I overdid it. I was out of control and here's what happened.'"
Here's a few instances of local and out of town fans who escaped a maximum fine last season:
• An 18-year-old Allouez teen arrested during the 2014 Jets game was given an unlawful conduct fine of $502 while his second citation, underage drinking, was dismissed, court records reflect. The teenager initially gave police a fake name and claimed he was 28 years old. Police discovered he was carrying a fake ID.
• A 23-year-old Suamico man at the Jets game was also fined $502 for unlawful conduct. According to arrest reports, he refused to leave the stands when police tried to eject him because of his intoxication level. He was taken into custody after arguing with police and refusing to leave the stadium.
• A 28-year-old fan from Pennsylvania arrested toward the end of the Eagles game was fined $124 for unlawful conduct. He was arguing with ushers and shouting profanities at police.
Lawbreakers treated same
Hanson told Gannett Wisconsin Media he treats all Lambeau lawbreakers the same, regardless of their favorite team.
A Neenah man who attended last December's Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons may have been hit with the highest fines of any arrested fan last season. He was fined $1,884 for unlawful conduct, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana, according to Green Bay court records.
"In my mind, local versus out of town fans makes absolutely no difference," Hanson said. "I'm looking at the fact that they are creating a disturbance. Look, you are upsetting the people in the stands around you. And then when you are resisting, now you've created a potential problem. You do something where you to cause a number of these police officers to spend the next 45 minutes to an hour dealing with you. That is reducing the security for other parts of the stadium."
The I-Team found at least a few of last season's out-of-town fans ignored their court summons. They refused to pay their Green Bay municipal court fines including a couple of fans who attended November's Packers-Bears game. One was a Bears fan from Chicago who threw a beer can on the field as he grew disgusted by his favorite team's performance.
Additionally, a Dallas Cowboys fan from Illinois has yet to pay his $1,760 in court-ordered fines, records show. That fan was arrested outside the stadium entrance prior to the start of January's playoff game. It took several officers to arrest him at the time of his disturbance.
Fans who refuse to pay their municipal fines now have another reason to stay away from Lambeau Field altogether: They have warrants issued for their arrests.
If they return to Wisconsin, they are subject to being taken into custody, officials said. And if they're ever caught within Lambeau Field, they're subject to being arrested for criminal trespassing, meaning even more potential fines.
— John Ferak: 920-993-7115 or email@example.com; on Twitter @johnferak