A Property Rights Koan For You To Ponder

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Last night while enjoying a Giants game at wonderful SBC Park (built with no public funding!), I got a little second-inning sideshow as three of San Francisco's finest and four or five burly stadium ushers entered our second-tier section, marched down to the front row, and escorted out a bunch of fat guys in Chico State sweatshirts. The bouncees, with long faces, left their seats without incident. A few minutes later I head in to the refreshment area and see the same group is now clustered together, discussing terms of surrender; additional cops and stadium security types have arrived. I pretend to be reading some wall text about Willie Mays and listen in. The lead cop is saying, "This is a disorderly conduct charge. We're just going to take your names and give them to the stadium; there won't be anything on your record." Although most of the Chico State guys are gloomily nodding along, one objects: "Listen, the only thing that happened was when we were at the gate there was a guy selling beers; he said 'Beers three dollars," and we thought Great!" And so on. I didn't listen to much more; the upshot is that they were getting tossed for bringing in outside beverages.

I think everybody can agree that the stadium can make and enforce whatever rules it chooses with regard to pricing, outside food and drink, kicking out violators, and so on. (For the record, the cheapest beer you can get at SBC is a slightly-less-than-12-ounce Miller Lite for $7.50.) But what about the disorderly conduct bounce? Presumably the stadium or the Giants organization kicks in something for police overtime. Does that mean the cops can arrest you (or threaten to arrest you) for violating a stadium policy? "Disorderly conduct" is an intentionally broad offense that can be used to define just about any behavior anybody wants stopped, but for what it's worth, the fat guys were not causing any disturbance or infringing anybody's enjoyment of the game. Supposing that there is not a law specifically saying it's disorderly conduct to bring outside booze to a licensed premises (and come to think of it, there may well be such a law), is this a matter for the police to be involved in at all, or should SBC have sole responsibility for giving these guys the boot?

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  1. The state provides the thugs. The private companies just hire them.

  2. I may be a libertarian and in favor of free markets, but I still have no sympathy for people who would charge $7.50 for 12 ounces of domestic horse-piss. Anything people can do to screw over the franchise is morally, if not legally, right.

  3. Seems like the operative law would be trespass. I’m not sure whether a trespass violation should only come into effect once the trespasser refuses a request to vacate the premises or whether the trespasser is subject to state punishment by the very fact of his unwanted presence, or whether such a fact can be established by the mere breaking of the rules of the establishment.

  4. If I were them, I’d just move out to the free view in right field for the rest of the game.

    t.c.

    p.s. The stadium may have been “built with no government funding!” but the city did give the land that was worth $15M or $40M or $100M – take your pick (it was during the dot bomb era).

  5. If major-league baseball is expert at anything these days, it’s squashing local competition. I’ve always hated that monopoly exemption they enjoy so much.

  6. If it’s a “charge” why would it not go on their records? Sounds odd, i’m not sure I truly understand exactly what resulted, legally, from their “disorderly conduct.” It’s a matter of violating the conditions of the license that a ticket grants the ticketholder. One of the conditions of the license is presumably that when you enter the property, you’ll abide by the conditions of the stadium, one of which is not to bring outside food in. Violating the terms of a license agreement is presumptively not criminal conduct (copyright aside, as copyright law and controlled substances law both screw every other area of the law up the ass making them all meaningless… but i digress).

  7. Mr. Cavanaugh, this rant is a little more your style than the one about the candy bar, but not as sweet. 🙂

  8. This just goes to show how civilization has declined. Back in the good old days the fat guys would have been urinating on the crowd below and would have merited a disorderly conduct charge.

  9. Sorry, I wouldn’t know the exact laws, but this appears to be a combination of the policy of most professional sports leagues for the safety of the players and fans and the effects of dram shop laws which parse liabilities for the transgressions of the few to deeper pockets. No stadium owner wants missiles in the stands in the form of bottles or full cans of beer, especially not if they should be in the hands of excitable, intoxicated fans (not saying these guys were). We’ve seen where it’s bad enough that they have styrofoam cups full of beer. Also, a number of places are caving to the trial lawyers and alcohol control activists by limiting alcohol sales to the first 3/4 of a game to keep patrons from buying that last one for the road and hopefully staving off threat of ambulance chasers. I guess we should still feel lucky as long as they still allow tailgate parties in the lot.

    As far I know, any property owner can invite public servants on their property to issue disorderly conduct or any other charges to unruly patrons breaking those laws. These guys might not have been unruly, but they did break the stadium rules. My concern would be where the cops bust in and start concocting laws, like when those in DC, or was it Maryland, were walking uninvited into bars, rousting patrons, and charging them with public intoxication even though they were on private property doing what the business was created to allow patrons to do. Now that’s crossing the line.

  10. If it’s a “charge” why would it not go on their records?

    From what I could tell, what he really meant was I’m being a nice guy by not charging you with this, so if you don’t go along I’ll take you downtown.

  11. It would be trespassing or a violation of the peace. I am not sure what California laws or San Francisco ordinances specifically say, but as an invitee, customers (baseball ticket holders are customers just as some jackass in McDonald’s is a customer) can be removed from premises for violating rules set by the establishment. If they don’t, the police can be called in to force them off.

  12. Baby faced officer: You’ve got 5 charges against you right now, disobeying a direct order from an officer, drunk and disorderly, not having Id on you, open containers, and drinking under age
    My Girlfriend: Officer, I just found his Id here in my bag.
    Me: So that’s only 4 charges then, right?
    BFO: No, you’ve got another drunk and disorderly.

    True story, my friends and I were at the Siren Fest, a free all-day concert on Coney Island where there are literally thousands of people just milling around between three streets and the boardwalk, and like half are walking around with beers. We passed dozens of uniformed officers throughout the day with beers and none seemed to have a problem, and then this little prick who looked no older than 22 started harrassing us.

  13. What a bunch of assholes. Couldn’t they just confiscate the beers and leave it at that? I love that park, but dick-head policies like this make me never want to give another buck to those jerks.

  14. re: Archie’s story

    It can’t really be a crime to not have ID on you, can it? I’m not doubting the story, just wondering how big an asshole that cop was being.

  15. My concern would be where the cops bust in and start concocting laws, like when those in DC, or was it Maryland, were walking uninvited into bars, rousting patrons, and charging them with public intoxication even though they were on private property doing what the business was created to allow patrons to do.

    Fairfax County, Virginia. And it wasn’t in response to any big public outcry, political race, or anything else. They just hauled off and did it and surprised the hell out of everybody.

  16. Anon, I was under-age at the time, I dunno if that has any bearing on it, but keep in mind, a bunch of Long Island kids being threatened with a night in the drunk tank in Brooklyn so we weren’t gonna ask too many questions, plus this cop was young, he looked like a kid, they had him in plain clothes so I think he was supposed to blend in with all the kids at the fest, and I think he was just pissed that when he first confronted us my friends and I didn’t take him seriously enough, I just chalked it up to some kind of power trip

  17. Don’t most jurisdictions have a “sub-misdemeanor” level of charge – where I live it is called an “ordinance violation” – that doesn’t give you a criminal record? The police can write you a ticket for an OV, then let you go, and you have to appear in front of a court commissioner if you contest the case. Often there are OV, misdemeanor and felony versions of the same conduct, depending upon whether you are just being a jackass, or actually causing real trouble.

    The benefit to law enforcement of writing the ticket is that many folks can just pay the fine, get the nonsense behind them, and get on with their lives. If their violation is alcohol-related they may have to be “assessed” for abuse or addiction by a counselor, and may even have to go to some lectures about drinking responsibly and/or recognizing when you might need to dry up. If you have an idea about fighting a ticket, you may find the DA’s office scrutinizing the issuing officer’s report, and wind up facing a misdemeanor charge.

    That’s a hell of a violation, that ordinance violation.

    I can’t believe that bringing your own brew into a ballpark doesn’t violate some alcohol-vending regulation, though. Imagine what they’d do to the guy who sold the beers!

    Kevin

  18. Tim,
    Actually, all you have to go on is what that guy said. You have no idea if they did anything else.

    Besides, this can all be sorted out in the courts. If they’re not guilty of disorderly conduct, they’ll walk.

  19. What they were supposed to do was buy about three or four beers each from the guy outside the gate and shotgun them down before they went into the stadium. Nothing disorderly about that, buddy.

  20. I’d really have to be thirsty to pay $7.50 for a Miller anything. Ouch.

  21. So we have armed police officers taking private money and exploiting public laws soley to maximize the employer’s profits? Nothing fascist about that.

  22. Actually, all you have to go on is what that guy said. You have no idea if they did anything else.

    Well, you’re right; they may have been wanted for armed robbery as well. But I was sitting four rows behind them, and there was no disturbance anywhere in the section until they got rousted-and even that wasn’t much of a disturbance because they went quietly.

    Besides, this can all be sorted out in the courts. If they’re not guilty of disorderly conduct, they’ll walk.

    And my original question is should you have to defend yourself in criminal court for such a minor infraction of a private company’s rules?

  23. This entire “quandary” seems pretty straightforwardly answerable:

    1) Ambiguously defined offenses like “disorderly conduct” should be stricken from the public rolls.

    2) Guests on the property should follow the explicit rules set forth by the property owner (so long as they don’t contradict any existing laws).

    3) If they fail to obey these rules (or, hell, even if they’re just ugly, or the owner is having a bad day), then the owner can demand that they vacate the premises.

    4) If they refuse to vacate the premises, then the owner can physically remove them, or call the authorities to enforce trespassing laws.

    Other than trespassing laws or other explicit violations of state/local/federal laws, the police should have no business in these affairs. The fact is, though, as soon as the owner requests you vacate the premises, and you refuse, you have broken a law.

    Tim axed,

    “should you have to defend yourself in criminal court for such a minor infraction of a private company’s rules?”

    No, certainly not. Refusing to obey the owner’s rules should not constitute a punishable offense. But if, as a result, you are asked to leave, and refuse to do so, then you have broken the law, and yes, you should have to defend yourself in a criminal court.

  24. By “their record” he may have also been referring to records kept by the stadium. If the fans were season ticket holders, frequent violations like that can add up to having their season tickets revoked. My parents have season tickets at Lambeau Field, and they sold a set to a neighbor last year. The neighbor’s daughter took her fiance, who couldn’t wait in line for the mens restroom and decided to use the ladies room. He was arrested and my parents got a letter some time later telling them about the incident.

    No action was taken, but now my parents need to be pretty careful about who they sell extra tickets to. If somebody in their seats has another incident, they’ll probably lose thier tickets.

  25. “The neighbor’s daughter took her fiance, who couldn’t wait in line for the mens restroom and decided to use the ladies room.”

    What a scumbag. But that’s weird, since it’s usually the other way around.. women are the ones lining up because they take so damned long.

  26. Evan Williams,

    Good post. But did you see mine earlier? The one remaining issue to my mind is whether by disobeying a property owner’s rules (whose property you are on) you can be found to be in effect trespassing. On one hand, I find it noxious that the state would be enforcing a private property owner’s rules. On the other, what if the “rule” is simply “stay away” and you ignore it? Seems that someone who knowingly breaks a property owner’s clearly stated rules may be knowingly trespassing and thus perhaps a request (or demand or whatever you want to call it) to vacate may not be necessary for a rule breaker to be guilty of trespass. Whatcha think?

  27. “Disorderly conduct” charges could be brought up, but they probably wouldn’t hold up in court, depedning on how insanely the laws are written.

    Basically the ticket holders were violating the terms of their contract with the Giants so the Giants have legal authority to terminate the contract which allowed them entry to the park.

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