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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

I'm a software engineer / partner working for a young company in Austin, Texas, USA. I spend most of my free time hanging out with friends and family, eating out, and partying in the Warehouse District. I should spend more time working on my house....

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Arresting drunks.. in the bar

A friend sent me an article on CNN's website about how the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is now sending undercover agents into bars to arrest people for public intoxication:
Texas has begun sending undercover agents into bars to arrest drinkers for being drunk, a spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said 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 commission's Carolyn Beck.

Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness, Beck said.

My gut reaction is I don't like it, but I understand the logic behind it. As they mention in the article:
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," Beck said. "People walk out into traffic and get run over, people jump off of balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss."

I think this is an abuse of power. Bars are public places and thus drunks in them fall under the public intoxication statutes, but I think it is just wrong. Unless the management of the bar (or other patrons) complain, the individual should be left alone. Obviously measures should be taken to ensure that the individual doesn't leave the bar drunk and certainly doesn't drive drunk, but pre-emptive action seems unjust.

A more reasonable action, IMHO, was Austin police asking drunken driving suspects where they last drank, then if over a long period of time specific bars showed up again and again work to reduce that problem from the specific "trouble" locations and if necessary consider specific undercover actions at that location. Care must be taken to recognize that the number of patrons at the bar will cause this number to naturally be higher for a bar that holds 500 than a bar that holds 50.


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