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Friday 28 February 2003

More on ‘Public Drunkenness’

Some of the cases resulting from the Fairfax County Police’s raids on bars in December have come to trial. These are the raids where people were arrested for ‘public drunkenness’, allegedly as part of an effort to curb drunk driving. Whether the people were planning to drive anywhere — or whether they were particularly drunk, apparently — was not much of a factor in determining whether to arrest them, though.

The Washington Post tells the story of Daniel Crowley, one of the people who was arrested:

Crowley and his drinking companions disputed police testimony that they observed him spilling beer in his lap, slurring his speech and having trouble staying upright on his seat.

“He was at a table with a group, and his behavior stood out from all the others,” said Fairfax County Police Sgt. O.W. Elam.

Under cross-examination from Crowley’s attorney, police acknowledged that neither they nor bar patrons had complained that Crowley was acting unruly or meddlesome. They also testified that he did not disobey their orders, even though he declined to submit to a breathalyzer test.

Crowley, 29, testified that he has a chronic problem with red eyes and pulled from his pocket a bottle of eyedrops that he said he uses every day.

Wendy Richards, a friend who was drinking beer with him that night, denied that Crowley showed any symptoms of intoxication. She testified that she had been chatting with the two undercover officers, not realizing they were anything but customers.

“They humiliated me,” she said after the hearing. “They used me as a decoy.”

Jacob Perkins, an attorney for Crowley, argued that Crowley should not have been arrested because he was not bothering anyone. “There’s a difference between being drunk in public and being rowdy and drunk in public,” he said.

After the hearing, Crowley decried the police sweep and said he no longer frequents bars in Fairfax.

“I’m not happy with the way they can walk into a restaurant and do as they please,” he said of police. “I don’t want to go to places in the atmosphere where you don’t know who is who.”

Crowley was sentenced to 25 hours of community service to repay his debt to society for allegedly being drunk in the noisiest bar in Reston — and this in a state and county with such serious money problems that the prisons are cutting back on feeding inmates, the DMV is closing offices, and many other random things have been cut, including the hours that state liquor stores — which actually generate revenue — are open.

Good to know there’s still enough money left for the police and courts to waste their time on this garbage!

Posted by tino at 10:00 28.02.03
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