MANKATO, Minn. (AP) – A new Mankato ordinance that allows police to arrest someone for being a nuisance while drunk in public is getting mixed reviews.
The “disruptive intoxication” ordinance became official at the end of last month. It gives officers the option of citing or arresting anyone who’s being unruly while drunk.
The Mankato Free reported that police say the ordinance provides a vital tool for dealing with disruptive drunks. Before it was enacted, they said, officers had a tough time dealing with extremely drunk people when there wasn’t a direct victim.
But one public defender who has represented people cited for the offense calls the law “silly,” according to the newspaper report (http://bit.ly/mGFceM ).
“It allows additional charges for the same act,” attorney Mike Mountain said. “You’re just replacing apples with apples.”
One of the first people arrested under the ordinance was a 21-year-old student at Minnesota State University. He was confronted by police officers earlier this month after he called 911 to report a problem at a bar.
He said the bar was treating him unfairly, while employees said he had been kicked out twice for causing a disturbance and was refusing to leave.
The officer who interviewed the man said he was yelling and spitting and wouldn’t calm down. When another person stepped in, the suspect allegedly “got in the officer’s face” and told the officer to show him respect, police said.
He was arrested for disruptive intoxication. A preliminary breath test showed he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit.
Without the new ordinance, police could have tried to arrest him for disorderly conduct, but the disorderly conduct ordinance that has been on the books for years required officers to show that a suspect’s conduct was causing “alarm, anger or resentment in others.”
The new ordinance only requires officers to show that a suspect is intoxicated while being loud or combative or disobeying an officer’s order.
“It just gives us another tool to use at night because disorderly conduct didn’t fit,” police Cmdr. Craig Frericks. “This works better with what we deal with downtown.”
Another person arrested under the new ordinance was a 24-year-old Rochester man. He had been accused of threatening someone with a knife but when police arrived the victim refused to cooperate.
The man refused to take a preliminary breath test. However, the new ordinance allows officers to arrest suspects who refuse a breath test but have bloodshot eyes, alcohol on their breath, slurred speech or dilated pupils.
That’s not right, said Mountain, the defense attorney.
“Just being drunk shouldn’t be against the law,” he said. “There’s a disease called alcoholism. Should police be taking people off the street just because they have a disease?”
A better option would be to take the person to a detoxification center, Mountain said.
Frericks said officers do use that option when they’re dealing with cooperative people. And for people who aren’t excessively intoxicated, police might also issue them a citation and send them home with friends.
“I really do believe our officers give people the benefit of the doubt,” Frericks said.
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