Under the Influence

I saw this yesterday, had a post all ready to go on it and then dropped it. Well, it’s shown up all over the place today, so I guess I should’ve posted it after all.

I’ve seen the TABC in action over the years from many different points of view and my general feeling is that they’re an agency that’s a little too caught up in their own authori-tay. Now they’re essentially arresting people in bars for drinking. You read that right. TABC’s rationale is that they’re protecting us from ourselves. The money quote, as others have pointed out, from TABC’s spokeswoman Carolyn Beck is

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

Now, Public Intoxication in Texas is defined thusly:

A person commits an offense if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.

Intoxication is legally defined as:

1. not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or
2. having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

I’m wondering what criteria they’re using in practice when they go in a do this. Do you have to have your face down on the bar? Are they questioning everyone in the bar and looking for signs? Are they administering field sobriety tests to everyone in the bar? Are they breathalyzing everyone and then taking them in? What constitutes endangering myself or another if I’m sitting in a stool? It seems to me that if they’re going to move to this level of enforcement, they might as well outlaw drinking altogether. Coming on the heels of the smoking ban, are they trying to shut down the entire Sixth Street entertainment district? As Odam from Austinist points out, if they just hung out at iHop or Whataburger at 2:30 am around town, they’d probably catch most of the drunk drivers. Why mess with the people who’re walking (ok, stumbling), busing or cabbing it home?

Naturally, all of this is moot if you’re taken in. You’re screwed by the mere virtue of being arrested even if you can ultimately prove yourself innocent. You’ve still got to take the time and the expense to fight the charges, guilty or not. Once you’re tagged, you’re in the system and you’re essentially f’ed. Unless, of course, you have money or influence.

Being that this is a city blog in a network of city blogs, what about other cities? Are we the only state with a law enforcement agency whose sole realm of enforcement is alcohol?

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