Friday, March 24, 2006

Nothing Sacred Follow-Up Segment

Yesterday I posted about the proactive arrests of fellow imbibers made recently in Irving, Texas and Scott suggested I keep an eye on the story and see what else develops. While I am at a loss on how to go about doing this without spending too much time or money on this, I did do a little more looking into the background on this.

The first (I keep typing Frist instead of first, clearly I have politics on the mind too oft of late) thing I came across was this Reuters piece on MSNBC which I found through the Crime and Punishment section but the article itself seems to be in the peculiar postings section.
Texas arresting people in bars for being drunk
Undercover agents pursue inebriates in a pre-emptive strategy

SAN ANTONIO, Texas [which is nowhere near Irving, where the pre-emptive strategery took place, and is not Austin where the TABC, the nefarious commission behind the strategery, is based] – Texas has begun sending undercover agents into bars to arrest drinkers for being drunk, a spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Comission said on Wednesday.

The first sting operation was conducted recently in a Dallas suburb where agents infiltrated 36 bars and arrested 30 people for public intoxication, said the comission’s Carolyn Beck.
Now here I would like to take a short break from transcribing the entire article (it is a short piece) to kick the writer of this article around. Read that sentence again paying particular attention to the “…where agents INFILTRATED 36 bars…” I don’t know about the rest of you, but the last time I had to infiltrate a bar was…no, wait, never in my life have I had to infiltrate a bar. I think it is clear that the nameless Reuters wire-monkey who wrote this piece has been watching a bit too much of the Mission Impossible lately. Seriously NRWM why must you make it sound so much more epic than a couple of guys who were probably in slightly better shape than 50% of the bar patrons walk into the bar and arrest some people for being drunk. That’s what happened. There was no Iron Curtain they had to piece, no great secret cabal to track down, and there were no secret police after them for they were the secret police. Using NRWM’s definition I have been infiltrating my underpants for years. Make of that what you will. Now back to the article.
Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness, Beck said. [I find this somewhat ironic coming from a rocker-type…oh wait, they mean Carolyn.]

The goal, she said, was to detain drunks before they leave a bar and go do something dangerous like drive a car.

“We feel that the only way we’re going to get at the drunk driving problem and the problem of people hurting each other while drunk is by crackdowns like this,” she said.

“There are a lot of dangerous and stupid things people do when they’re intoxicated, other than get behind the wheel of a car [like let Scott order drinks for them],” Beck said. “People walk out into traffic and get run over, people jump off of balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss.”

She said the sting operations would continue throughout the state.
Another brief bit of invective for you before we move on. “…people jump off of balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss.” Ms. Beck people do that kind of crap stone cold sober. Stick to the drunk driving defense because if you’re going to spend your time trying to keep people from doing stupid things you, let’s just say you have a bit of an up-hill battle.

In all seriousness I liked this piece. It put a face on the sting operation and served notice to all us unrepentant drunkards that they will be infiltrating our local watering holes any day now. Also MSNBC had one of their intsa-polls in which they had received 38,270 responses. The question asked was “Does it make sense to arrest people for being drunk in bars?” 83% of the respondants chose the option that states, “No, people go to bars to drink, and if they get drunk but stay safe, it should be OK.”

After this I swung on by the TABC website to see if I could find the chapter and verse on public intoxication and related subjects. I was not able to find the legal definition of public intoxication on the TABC site, however I did find a PDF containing the TABC code, which some of you might find interesting, so I linked it here. I also stumbled across the TABC press release announcing this new strategy, or rather Sales to Intoxicated Persons stings. The following section appears in the press release:
Myths About Public Intoxication
  • A person can’t be in a bar or nightclub for public intoxication. Yes they can.
  • If a person is arrested for public intoxication, the officer has to offer them either a breath or blood test to determine their level of intoxication. No they do not. Agents may conduct routine field sobriety tests, but breath or blood samples are not required.
  • Just because a person has a designated driver, it’s okay to become intoxicated. No it’s not. Being intoxicated to the point of presenting a danger to yourself or others is grounds for arrest.
Then we get down to the good stuff:
Some Facts About Public Intoxication And Nightclubs

Many people do not understand how they can be arrested when they are inside a bar or a private club. Chapter 49.02 of the Texas Penal Code states: "A person commits an offense if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another." Any location permitted to sell or serve alcoholic beverages is a public place.

People also confuse public intoxication with having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, which is the legal limit for driving in Texas. But an individual’s BAC is only half the story. Chapter 49.01(2)(a) of the Penal Code defines public intoxication as "not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; OR (b) having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more."

Alcohol affects different people in different ways. Just two or three drinks can cause some people to act in ways that they normally would not. Loud or slurred speech, exaggerated movements and unsteady balance are the most common symptoms exhibited. These are some of the things that law enforcement officials look for when dealing with individual suspected of being intoxicated. If an agent can articulate that a person does not have the normal use of mental or physical faculties, due to alcohol or drug consumption, then the agent can arrest that person for public intoxication.

Sales to Intoxicated Persons: Section 101.63 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code makes it a crime to sell alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person. Bartenders and wait staff are legally obligated to look out for these signs of intoxication and to refuse to continue serving someone who appears to be intoxicated. People in the service industry are encouraged to attend a TABC-approved Seller Training Course and be trained in how to identify minors and intoxicated persons.

Consequences: Public intoxication is a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500 for each occurrence. Not only that, most jails now require that a person arrested for public intoxication be held for at least 4 to 12 hours before being released. Selling alcohol to an intoxicated person is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500 and/or up to a year in jail. Just having either of these offenses on a person’s criminal record could affect their ability to get a job for the rest of their lives.

Contact: Carolyn Beck, Public Information Officer, 512-206-3347

Now we’re getting somewhere. We have the chapter and verse on where the PI clause exists in the state penal code AND they gave us Carolyn Beck’s phone number. If I had more cojones I would call her and ask if they have bothered to do a study on the impact of the program. If I was even more daring I would call her, ask that question and then when I received the inevitable no, I would ask for arrest details on the program so I could analyze the data myself. I bet I would not get that either.

After reading this I swung by Google to try and track down an online copy of the Texas Penal Code so I could read the entry on PI myself. Here is what I found in Title 10. Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, and Morals. (Morals, nice touch.)

Sec. 49.02. PUBLIC INTOXICATION. (a) A person commits an offense if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.
(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the alcohol or other substance was administered for therapeutic purposes and as a part of the person’s professional medical treatment by a licensed physician.
(c) Except as provided by Subsection (e), an offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
(d) An offense under this section is not a lesser included offense under Section 49.04 [Driving While Intoxicated].
(e) An offense under this section committed by a person younger than 21 years of age is punishable in the same manner as if the minor committed an offense to which Section 106.071, Alcoholic Beverage Code, applies.

There you go loyal readers. I really don’t have any commentary on the law itself except to say that I do not like that it is left to the officer’s judgment. I promise to keep my eyes peeled for further developments on this case.


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