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Is public drunkenness a crime? In Arizona it soon will be.

February 22, 2011

This morning NPR reports that the Arizona legislature is pushing hard for the repeal of a state law that prevents cities from enacting their own public drunkenness laws. Most reports on the topic quote Holbrook (Arizona) Police Chief Mark Jackson, who insists mere public drunkenness isn’t the problem the legislation is trying to solve. No, instead…

“The problem is when individuals go into the stores, they buy the beer, or they go in the bar and get so inebriated that they walk down the street and wander into oncoming traffic,” said Jackson.

Come on now Chief Jackson! You’re telling me there’s not one single existing law you can use to arrest someone who’s so blind drunk they’re walking into traffic?! Well, I think that’s just laziness on your part, sir. I can think of several things you could charge that dumbass for: public nuisance, trespassing, etc. I bet you I could even hire an attorney to stretch the definition of “criminal damage” or “drug possession“.

In fact, I was curious – what does Arizona law currently allow Police Chief Jackson to do with public drunkards? I spent about 5 minutes Googling the topic and I found not 1… not 2… but 3 different things Chief Jackson can already do about this scenario.

Typically, law enforcement will find a basis other than being intoxicated to arrest someone who is drunk in public.  Some offenses may include disorderly conduct and trespass.  If the person is a potential harm to himself or others, law enforcement may transport the person to an alcohol treatment center. (source JacksonWhiteLaw.com, Arizona criminal lawyers and bloggers).

If you read the story more carefully, you’ll see the real problem.

The mayors of Holbrook and Page told members of the Senate Committee on Border Security, Federalism and States’ Rights that their communities have become havens for reservation residents who come to town largely to drink.

OK, first of all… we now have a Senate Committee on Border Security, Federalism and States’ Rights?? I can hear the jackboots coming to my door now. You KNOW they ain’t gonna like me: a 40year old woman with super-short hair who never got married or had kids… and also lives with several cats. I might as well be Rachel Maddow in their eyes.

Moving on…You know how you know this is actually about racial prejudice and banishing unruly brown people from town? Because the Chief of Police never uses the word “Indian” in his statements. He calls them “reservation residents,” and earlier in the story, the Chief uses the phrase  “people from the reservation.”  Who do you think lives on the reservation?! It’s not Mr and Mrs Whitey McWhiterton, it’s Indians. This convoluted language is about the same as calling gays and lesbians “people from the other team.”

Instead of  working with bartenders to cut people off when they’re blind drunk…  instead of working with the reservation to request the tribes provide a bus ride home… instead of using the existing ability to arrest public drunkards for disorderly conduct, Chief Jackson and others went whining to the State legislature – currently controlled by the most extreme members of the neoconservative party – and got them to enact a law that allows the Chief to arrest Indians for being drunk in public, and then allows a Judge to force that Indian to go in (and stay in) a drug rehab program.

Leave it to the “smaller government” neoconservatives to press for an expansion of government power when they can’t be bothered to use laws already on the books. Pssst… the neocons aren’t really for smaller government kids. They’re for smaller central government, and they’re all about increasing the power of local governments to punish you and me via ‘sin legislation’ for anything that involves using drugs or alcohol or having anything except (heterosexual marital) sex.

(Unless otherwise stated, all quotes in this post are from a story put out on the wires, and originally written by Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. It was published in a bunch of places, one of which you can read on the East Valley Tribune website)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. JanetLee permalink
    February 22, 2011 12:29 pm

    Dang. And Arizona was on our list of possible places to relocate. I think I’ll stay in South Carolina, we aren’t that crazy yet.

    • February 22, 2011 7:04 pm

      Hahahah! Hi Jan ! You’re alright, come on down to live, or even to visit. We’ll let you in, and even tell you where the secret pockets of liberals meet. We’ve got a club handshake and everything. 🙂

      PS thank you so much for reading. you’re one of about 5 people and I really appreciate everyone of you guys.

  2. June 15, 2011 4:48 pm

    Give Mayor Hill a call and ask him directly, he’s a personable fellow. Pontificating on your blog about the natives etc doesn’t actually deal with the issue at all. Holbrook has been sued over intoxicated people who passed out and died of exposure in their limits… maybe you can help them come up with better solutions.

  3. June 15, 2011 6:55 pm

    Hello Micah, and thanks for reading. I’m glad you visited and would truly like to hear from you again.

    I don’t live in Holbrook so calling their Mayor would be presumptuous & meddlesome. More important, the point of my post wasn’t to slam the Mayor. My point was to illustrate the hypocrisy of today’s conservatives. They say they want “small government” but what they really want in this case is a new law with expanded powers to confiscate alcohol and force drunks into rehab. That’s not smaller government; that’s criminalizing a medical condition.

    It’s typical of today’s conservatives — they want to eliminate the social safety net (privatize Social Security & Medicare) and enact strict “sin legislation” covering drink, drugs, and non-marital, non-heterosexual sex.

    Back to Holbrook – I listed what I think are 2 good alternatives:
    1) get local tribal government to take responsibility for their citizens, and/or
    2) use existing laws to arrest the drunks for disorderly conduct

    If the current disorderly conduct law doesn’t do the job, why not just change that law? Why a new law criminalizing addiction? Do you live in Holbrook? Why won’t these 2 alternative methods work?

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