Foxboro Seeks New Bill To Prosecute Drunken And Disorderly Conduct

Foxboro is apparently tired of public drunkenness.

And, as we all know, when we decide we are against something…we push to make it illegal. Even if it already is basically illegal!!

Folks in Foxboro are now pushing to outlaw public drunkenness. The move is supported by many, including the parents of a young woman who was killed in 2008 after tailgating at Gillette Stadium.

“What’s it going to take, a couple more fatalities?” Steve Davis of Milton said as he and his wife baked a cake for what would have been their daughter’s 23rd birthday today.

On Monday, at a Town meeting, voters approved an article to impose a $200 fine for public drunkenness. This makes Foxboro the only Bay State municipality other than Dedham to pass such a bylaw, according to the state Attorney General’s Office, which must approve the measure.

Police Chief Edward O’Leary said he proposed the article because the number of people the town has taken into protective custody – mostly due to alcohol – has soared from 331 in 2007 to 953 in the last nine months alone.

“I was shocked when I counted how many we’ve had,” O’Leary said. “It came to a point where we needed to take more direct intervention. We’ve tried public education in the schools, but most of the people we take into protective custody aren’t from Foxboro.”

The bylaw is not targeted at people “who have one glass too many,” emphasized Selectman Paul Mortenson. “These are people who have had way too much alcohol, enough to make them a danger to themselves or to other people,” Mortenson said.” If (the measure) is a deterrent, I’m glad we passed it.”

Attorney Sam’s Take On Alcohol Related Crimes And Disorderly Conduct:

I find that, often, we rush to fix a problem by enacting laws which create more problems than they are worth. This is probably going to be one of them.

I do not have any firsthand knowledge of the tragedy which robbed Steve Davis and his wife of their daughter and I cannot begin to fathom the pain of losing a child. However, I have to question whether attacking “public drunkenness” is the right approach. Why not outlaw tailgating? What about banning alcohol at events altogether?

The fact is that what the town is trying to do has already been done. It simply does not solve every problem. For example, I do not know if the deceased young woman was underage when she or her friends were drinking. If so, then their consuming alcohol was already illegal. Were they driving? If so, that would be operating under the influence which is illegal.

Let’s assume that no motor vehicles or under-aged drinking was involved. The fact is that the behavior they are seeking to ban is already banned. It is, at the very least, called “disorderly conduct”.

After all, the measure is said not to target drinkers who had alittle too much – only those really drunk. The description easily fits with the definition of disorderly conduct.

The other problem is how it is going to be enforced. Who are the legal experts to decide whether someone has had “a little too much” and “way too much”? Do you really think that it is wise to put that issue into the hands of law enforcement? Sounds like a pretty subjective test, unless new field sobriety tests and breathalyzers are now going to be used.

I would suggest that this is going to lead to a similar problem as the rushed anti-bullying bill case predictably caused. A general law is passed and its enforcement is arbitrary. No clear test, only a bunch of arguable points which can effect peoples’ lives unfairly.

You know the worst part about these kinds of laws? They give a false sense of security so that people go back to ignoring the problem. Why not attack the causes of public drunkenness? Why not enforce the laws that are already there in a clear and consistent manner?

We don’t do that, as the “enforcement” of the anti-bullying bill has shown.

There will, however, likely be plenty of arrests and criminal actions that will be challenged, at the very least, as too the vagueness of the bill and whether or not the accused was drunk enough.

Maybe it will be you. Maybe someone you care about. Either way, believe it or not, you are likely to want to hire experienced counsel to help you deal with it.

Should you find yourself in this position, and you would like to discuss the possibility my representing you, please feel free to call me to set up a free initial consultation at 617–492-3000.

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