Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bar Arrests Spark Public Outcry

DALLAS -- The recent sweep of public-intoxication arrests inside North Texas bars elicited a barrage of comments and questions of fairness from area residents.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Irving police recently conducted sweeps of 36 bars and arrested about 30 people on charges of public intoxication after subjecting some bar patrons to field sobriety tests. The patrons were selected for the sobriety tests after agents determined the individuals posed an alleged risk to themselves or the public.
TABC representatives said the arrests were meant to prevent drunken driving. Viewers of NBC 5 e-mailed the station and wanted to know if the arrests were legal. A local defense attorney said the cases contain merit.
"Anybody out there who is drinking needs to be aware that you have to drink responsibly, even if you're not driving," criminal defense attorney Barry Sorrels said. "If you're inside a bar, you could be arrested."
Texas law states that anyone who is drunk in public and poses a danger to themselves or others can be arrested regardless of whether they were inside a restaurant or bar, or on a city street.
Sorrels said the key to the law lies in the potential danger. He said it is not illegal to be intoxicated in public. The gray area comes in determining the degree of risk, Sorrels said.
"If (the) TABC is going to adopt this as a get-tough policy, they have to be fair on who they arrest," Sorrels said.
Three people caught in the recent sweep were arrested at a bar inside a hotel at which they were registered guests. All three said they had no intention of driving.
"It's no defense if you're staying at a hotel where you were publicly intoxicated at a bar," Sorrels said.

COMMENT BY DAVID SLOANE: Perhaps Mr. Sorrels should find another practice area of the law. Public Intoxication is the most widely abused criminal statute by police. For someone to be LAWFULLY arrested for public intoxication, they MUST be SO intoxicated they pose a risk to their safety or others. (A much higher level of intoxication than required for DWI!) A mere buzz won't do! Also, how can someone that is even extremely intoxicated pose a danger to themselves or others if they are in-tow by a sober person, or as in this case so readily dismissed by Mr. Sorrels, staying in a hotel where the bar is located and they will never be setting foot out on the street? Perhaps NBC5i should be seeking comments from attorneys who are a little better informed of the criminal statutes!

Bar Sweep Sparks Controversy

Comedian Weighs In On Public Intoxication Arrests

FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent a message to bar patrons last week.
TABC agents and Irving police swept through 36 Irving bars and arrested about 30 people on charges of public intoxication. Agency representatives say the move came as a proactive measure to curtail drunken driving.
North Texans interviewed by NBC 5, however, worried that the sweep went too far. At one location, for example, agents and police arrested patrons of a hotel bar. Some of the suspects said they were registered at the hotel and had no intention of driving. Arresting authorities said the patrons were a danger to themselves and others.
"Going to a bar is not an opportunity to go get drunk," TABC Capt. David Alexander said. "It's to have a good time but not to get drunk."
Dallas comedian Steve Harvey agreed with the Texas residents who said the arrests infringed on individual rights.
"If a guy's got a designated driver, go ahead and let him get toasted," Harvey told NBC 5.
Texas law states that inebriated individuals could be subjected to arrest anywhere for public intoxication. Harvey and other North Texans called the measure extreme.
"That seems to be an extreme case," one man said. "You are self-contained, in the hotel, you're not going in the streets, it seems a little ridiculous."
TABC officials said the sweep concerned saving lives, not individual rights. Harvey and others interviewed by NBC 5 said they believe drunken driving to be unacceptable, although Harvey wanted to confirm that the United States remains a free country.
"Freedom of drinking should always be allowed, and it is only American to let a guy get drunk where he wants to get drunk," Harvey said.

Officials Make Public Intoxication Arrests Inside Bars

IRVING, Texas -- The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has taken its fight against drunken driving to a new level. TABC agents, along with Irving police, targeted 36 bars and clubs Friday, arresting some allegedly intoxicated patrons before they departed the businesses.
The officers and agents also kept watch on bartenders who might have over-served patrons.
Agents arrested 30 people Friday night. Most of the suspects now face charges of public intoxication. The agents and Irving police officers traveled from bar to bar and worked undercover, according to an NBC 5 report.
The report also said that some agents shared tables with suspected drunken patrons. Some patrons were subjected to field sobriety tests inside bars.
Agents and officers said the operation represented an effort to reduce drunken driving.
Sgt. Chris Hamilton, of the TABC, said some inebriated bar patrons "end up killing themselves or someone else" after departing the businesses.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Warning about "Crotch-Rockets"

Bulletin to Clients with Advice Concerning Motorcycles:

In my criminal defense practice I have noted an alarming trend concerning the police and those clients with motorcycles. Effective immediately, my legal advice to all clients owning or riding motorcycles affectionately known as “crotch rockets” is to stop. This advice is particularly so for clients who are already in legal jeopardy with pending criminal litigation; or are already on probation. Based on what I have seen I believe the average beat cop views these vehicles and those who ride them with pure and utter contempt. This is not simply a case where someone is more likely to ‘get a ticket’ if they ‘happen to get stopped.’ Those days went out with James Dean when there was a kinder and gentler justice system unlike the one we have today. I have found the majority of police officers with nothing more pressing to do will seize every opportunity to immediately pursue; detain; search; and arrest the drivers of these vehicles if they can. Merely riding one down a public street is an open invitation for legal problems in general; and sometimes very serious ones for those that for legal reasons should be trying to blend into the fabric of society. Riding one of these vehicles makes some very profound and unfavorable statements about you to the average stationary beat-cop which equates to an open invitation for legal problems. For these reasons alone I am advising all clients to stay off and away from these vehicles. I personally have nothing against motorcycles of any kind. This is pure and simple legal advice with no comment or opinion of the social issues associated with it. For many and for legal reasons alone merely riding a “crotch rocket” will result in serious legal situations when they’re just trying to go about their business.