Alcohol

Texas Public Intoxication Laws Allow for Arrest Without Intoxication. Or Even Drinking.

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Various jurisdictions in Texas have made news over the last several years for sending vice squads into bars and arresting patrons for drinking. Not drinking and driving, mind you. Just drinking. In a bar.

In a scary piece for Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein delves into just how ridiculously broad and vague the state's public intoxication laws really are. Exceprt:

The public intoxication standard, backed by the Texas-based Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is so broad that you can be arrested on just a police officer's hunch, without being given a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test. State courts have not only upheld the practice but expanded the definition of public intoxication to cover pretty much any situation, says Robert Guest, a criminal defense attorney in Dallas. "Having no standard allows the police to arrest whoever pisses them off and call it PI," he says, adding, "If you have a violent, homophobic, or just an asshole of a cop and you give him the arbitrary power to arrest anyone for PI, you can expect violent, homophobic, and asshole-ic behavior."

For some officers, PI has provided a ready-made reason for detaining minorities. A Houston defense attorney, who asks to be unnamed since he specializes in misdemeanors such as PI, puts it this way: "If you're brown and you're around—you're going down." Nick Novello, a 27-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, blew the whistle on three colleagues who he claims filled their arrest quotas by picking up people, mostly minorities, for PI. "They were illegally arrested," Novello says. "It's an absolute perversion." (Two were removed from the force.)

According to a recent report by sociology and law professors at the University of California-Berkeley, the Dallas suburb of Irving has used "discretionary" public intoxication arrests to fish for undocumented immigrants.

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  1. Drink! (to piss of the teetotalers)

  2. Cue the evangelicals to explain how the evils of alcohol justify all of this. It’s for the children.

    1. As the president and founder of the Southern Baptist Homebrewers Association, Im confused by your statement.

      1. Away with your heathen hooch. Only Methodist Malt Liquor for me.

        1. Silly methodists. I would like to see you define malt liquor in a way that distinguishes it from beer. I bet you cant.

          1. >5% alcohol and made in the style of an American Lager. Features virile imagery on the container and labelling in gothic script. Rarely sold in less than 40 oz units.

            1. Fail!

              Dogfish Head’s Liquor de Malt did not have festive virile imagery on the container (in fact, it came in a brown bag). Also, the label wasnt gothic.

              1. Also, Mickey’s Big Mouth, which is the best malt liquor I’ve ever drank.

                1. Do you like pissing out of your asshole?

                  1. Um, no. There is no requirement that you drink 10 of them, you know. You can stop before that.

        2. I loves me some Mormon Moonshine! Woooo Hoooo I wanna strip off my garments!

      2. The conservapedia guys are rewriting the Bible to take out the references to wine.

        1. No way. Seriously?

          1. What, you’ve never heard the story of Jesus turning water into milk?

            1. I believe it was soy milk so as not to exclude the lactose-intolerant.

              1. Actually he just turned water into water so as not to offend anyone.

    2. Come on — get with the times. As far as I can tell, they’ve generally mellowed toward those types of vices over the last twenty-odd years. Besides, it wasn’t them that made me think I’d stepped into a different world as I smoked a cig INSIDE a restaurant in the Denver airport last month. I was positively ecstatic…tipped the nice waitress a twenty. No, it was the State of Minnesota — fundamentalists of a different breed — who, through a selfless act of bipartisanship (that great defender of liberty, Pawlenty, signed it) took that away. Now I can go to the FAQ page at the freshairmn.org website and get advice on What should I do if I see someone smoking where they shouldn’t.

    3. I think the public health technocracy decided to take over this particular crusade.

  3. It’s a good reason to stay way from Texas.

    1. It’s another good reason to stay way from Texas. Sorry, Lone Star staters.

  4. Won’t you think of the children?!

    If this law saved ONE life, isn’t it worth some of your freedoms?

    1. Outlaw children. There, we’re done.

      1. Don’t worry… the environazis are working on that.

    2. This law is fucking stupid because (among other things mentioned in the article) it encourages people to drink and drive. If you can get arrested for walking home from the bar driving seems like a pretty good idea.

      1. If you read the new Freakonomics book you’d know drunk walking is more dangerous than driving. But yeah, it is fucking stupid.

        1. More dangerous to whom? But I guess law makers don’t really get the distinction between hurting yourself and hurting others so much these days.

    3. Nice quote MADD, no it isnt worth losing freedom. Those who will sacrifice FREEDOM for SECURITY, deserve neither.

  5. “asshole-ic”
    Is that a word ? It is now.

    1. I’m caught up on the juxtaposition of “homophobic” and “asshole-ic”.

      Is that a case of protesting too much, because (I’m cringing as I type this) couldn’t a gay man be considered an asshole-ic?

      1. I think that would be an “ass-aholic”.

        1. No. That would be someone who can’t stop with the buttsex (see Tony).

          1. Yeah but he was asking about gay men, so…

  6. It’s been done in New Mexico as well… Albuquerque in particular.

    1. Really? I used to drink and walk in Albuquerque all the time when I lived there. It seemed to be the local sport.

      1. They’ve gotten weird about the booze thing. The crawls and festivals still go on but I think they use the law to fill quotas from time to time, shake down certain bars and especially to ruin establishments where the powers that be want different development taking place.

  7. “Not drinking and driving, mind you. Just drinking.”
    O, thats an exaggeration. You must be drinking, AND sitting or standing. If you can hover, i.e., defy gravity, you wouldn’t be arrested – which makes this a perfectly cromulent law.

    1. In this here municipality, we enforce the law o’ gravity, son. Now get your ass down at 32 feet per second squared or I’m a haulin’ you in.

  8. “Various jurisdictions in Texas…”

    Out of how many?

    1. It doesn’t matter.

      If the state law is written in a way that allows this abuse, and the abuse is taking place in any jurisdictions anywhere in the state, the entire state deserves grief and scorn.

      1. the entire state deserves grief and scorn

        For the actions of a few? How unlibertarian.

        1. When “the few” are the state legislature, it is appropriate to complain about the state.

          If you are a Texan with no hand in crafting your state’s laws, then the derision is not directed at you.

          1. I see. Not the entire state, then. Just a few dozen legislators, and a handful of overzealous rubes. Not the people of Texas as a whole. Gotcha.

            1. The “state” refers to the government, not the people therein.

              1. But “the entire state” refers to every citizen.

                1. No, the citizens live in the territory governed by the state and some subset of these citizens are able to exercise the franchise to install/remove officials from a small selection of state offices.

  9. Man, the more and more I look at Texas the less appealing it becomes.

  10. All these do gooder make everyone a criminal laws are is a ready made excuse to harass minorities and poor people.

  11. It’s hard not to see a paralel between this and the idea that Mr. Smelly might spend his $17,000 on drugs sometime in the future.

  12. I thought you Americans had a Constitution. Yikes.

    1. we used to Tim, at least one that had more weight with Americans than Asswipe. not sure 90% of Americans even care about thier rights and freedoms anymore, we are in a sad time Tim a sad time for us Americans

    2. Yeah, so did we.

  13. Nick Novello, a 27-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, blew the whistle on three colleagues who he claims filled their arrest quotas by picking up people, mostly minorities, for PI… (Two were removed from the force.)

    …and Novello wasn’t removed from the force? Sounds like a violation of normal police practice to me.

    1. “27-year veteran”

      He probably ratted just before retiring. Does it redeem 27 years of putting up with similar behavior?

    2. I hope Nick Novello is watching his back for a while. I’d be afraid for my safety if I were him.

    3. Isn’t anyone upset that there are arrest quotas at all? Whatever happened to preventive policing?

  14. (Two were removed from the force.)

    Yeah, you know you’ve read too many Balko columns when a parenthetical statement like that is a pleasant shock.

    1. I almost had an aneurysm. A cop in this country can literally shoot and kill a completely innocent bystander and not even be reprimanded for it. I’m completely amazed (and pleasantly so) that someone might be fired over something like this.

  15. Living in California I am excited by the idea of legalizing marijuana and watching the dominoes fall through the rest of the Republic. Then reality slaps me upside the head with the fact that some states are still grappling with alcohol prohibition. Oh what a long road we have ahead of us….

    1. Oh please. This from the resident of a state that’s essentially criminalized the burning of tobacco in any form on any property private or public. Save your self-righteousness for other Californians.

  16. The public intoxication standard, backed by the Texas-based Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is so broad that you can be arrested on just a police officer’s hunch, without being given a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test.

    Why does Mothers Against Drunk Driving back this?

    1. Mission creep. It’s pretty much a temperence movement nowadays.

    2. Re: Michael Ejercito,

      Why does Mothers Against Drunk Driving back this?

      Because it is in reality a Prohibitionist organization disguised as a group of concerned mothers.

      The founder admitted that the organization shifted its focus towards prohibitionist policies, which compelled her to leave it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candy_Lightner

      1. The founder admitted that the organization shifted its focus towards prohibitionist policies, which compelled her to leave it.

        How did that happen?

    3. It helps police imprison minorities and poor people. Minorities and poor people are more likely to be drunks, so this indirectly cuts drinking, which then cuts drinking and driving. It makes perfect sense.

  17. Various jurisdictions in Texas have made news over the last several years for sending vice squads into bars and arresting patrons for drinking. Not drinking and driving, mind you. Just drinking. In a bar.

    Good way to circunvent the 21st Amendment of the Constitution . . . is the police accompanied by a creepy old lady holding ax in hand?

    By the way, maybe the Prohibition pArty is making a comeback . . .

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_Party

  18. …filled their arrest quotas…

    wtf? Arrest quotas? How would you even figure out what it ought to be (aside from pulling some number out of your @ss)?

    1. With current laws making damn near everyone a criminal, they’re limited only by how fast they can process paperwork. So the quota is probably working hours divided by how fast the average cop can file an arrest report (with a buffer for sleeping on the job or random, unproductive harassment).

  19. How would you even figure out what it ought to be (aside from pulling some number out of your @ss)?

    You take the total number of future crimes foreseen by the precogs in your department’s Precrime Unit, and divide by the number of officers in active duty. Simple.

    1. Minority Report! Love it.

  20. Can’t wait for Prohibition 2, I’ll make a killing bootlegging in my college town!

    1. Over your dead body you will – ask Serpico. We got that whole deal sewed up already, so take some friendly advice and stay the hell away.

  21. It’s an excuse to jail those uppity young males that don’t pretend to give unearned respect to cops.

    If the uppity young male is black or brown, BONUS POINTS!

  22. I was drunk in a bar. They THREW me into public.

  23. You take the total number of future crimes foreseen by the precogs in your department’s Precrime Unit, and divide by the number of officers in active duty. Simple.

    No, simpleton. You figure out the revenue shortfall for the year that you can cover by fines, divide that by the average fine levied, and then divide by the number of officers. The precogs are to busy to help with simple budget issues like this. You’ll never be a police chief thinking like that.

  24. Nick Novello, a 27-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, blew the whistle. . .

    Mad props to Mr. Novello, that rara avis, the honest cop.

    (Two were removed from the force.)

    Damn spellchecker – I’m sure you meant “promoted”, not “removed”.

  25. You’ll never be a police chief thinking like that.

    I’ve read enough Balko to take that as a compliment. Thank you, sir, and how is your mother?

  26. I’ve read enough Balko to take that as a compliment.

    As well you should.

  27. “If you have a violent, homophobic, or just an asshole of a cop and you give him the arbitrary power to arrest anyone for PI, you can expect violent, homophobic, and asshole-ic behavior.”

    See, if I were that judge in Mississippi, or wherever, that kept trying to put the ten commandments up in his courtroom? I’d just take the commandments down and put this up on the wall instead.

    1. Let me tighten that thought up for you

      If you have an asshole and you give him arbitrary power, you can expect asshole-ic behavior.

      The problem with government in a nutshell.

  28. While this particular law is horrific and tyrannical, I’m actually more disgusted by the fact that arrest quotas exist at all, regardless of how they fill them.

    If people are supposedly innocent until proven guilty, how can you say every cop must find X guilty people per month?

    1. If people are supposedly innocent until proven guilty,

      hah! Good one.

    2. I don’t read that as requiring guilty persons be found, only that X number of persons be arrested. Otherwise you’d be saying arrest is evidence of guilt.

      1. Arrest IS evidence of guilt boy. Ya wouldna bin arrested unless ya done sumthin’

  29. “If you have a violent, homophobic, or just an asshole of a cop and you give him the arbitrary power to arrest anyone for PI, you can expect violent, homophobic, and asshole-ic behavior.”

  30. A Houston defense attorney, who asks to be unnamed since he specializes in misdemeanors such as PI, puts it this way: “If you’re brown and you’re around?you’re going down.”

    Funny, I’m a brown skinned immigrant Texan, I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve never gone down for anything. Apparently, I have been hanging out with the wrong crowd. The Mother Jones crowd will educate me and adjust my expectations. I will recognize the pervasive everyday racism in Texas that greets the hundreds of thousands of new immigrant who enter and live in the state every year in blissful ignorance.

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