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Is There a Right to Get Drunk?

This guy thinks so:

Eric Laverriere, 25, of Portland, Maine, was taken into protective custody by Waltham police and locked in a cell for nine hours until the effects of the alcohol wore off.

Legal experts said his lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Boston, is the first to challenge a state law allowing police to lock up drunk people against their will for their own protection.

Laverriere argues that the Massachusetts Protective Custody Law was written to combat public drunkenness and that the police had no right to use it to take him from a private residence. He also says he had planned to spend the night at his friend's and wasn't going to be driving anywhere.

"One thing people should be able to do is drink in their own house," Laverriere told The Boston Globe. "That's the beauty of the land of the free."

If he wins his case, one thing seems certain--that is going to be one excellent celebration party.

AppSocRes (mail):
Some background may be in order here. This case may involve some interesting issues of privacy and police discretion.

It appears that the one party guest taken into custody -- out of the many who were drunk at the party -- was singled out for detention because he was videotaping police conduct when they came to the party in response to complaints of public disorder. This person then refused to cease videotaping when the police requested that he do so.

Although the original complaint that brought police to the party in question may have involved public disorder, the police never claimed that the person they detained was a public nuisance or intoxicated in a public place, just that he was intoxicated.

If sodomy in the privacy of one's home is constitutionally protected, why shouldn't such more traditionally acceptable forms of behavior as alcoholic intoxication receive the same protection?

I suspect that the detaine individual will ultimately collect a sizable settlement from the city of Waltham.
7.11.2005 12:38pm
big dirigible (mail) (www):
Yes, Internet news has quite a bit more on this story. Police complained about a beer bottle thrown at their cruiser, people at the party denied having anything to do with it, police wouldn't take "no" for an answer, plaintiff videotaped belligerant police, police knocked him to the ground and later claimed that he must have tripped while he was being cuffed, etc. Smells like it could be an expensive affair.
7.12.2005 1:06am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
The underlying issue I find interesting. (I think I've asked about this on the Usenet side.)

Most towns in Massachusetts will have, in their police blotters, plenty of cases of drunks being removed from their homes (usually at the request of a cohabitor) and taken down to the station to dry out. They are not under arrest, but they are not free to go.

It reminds me too much of the "good old days" of cops administering instant justice. (I suppose it works if the cops are good, but the oversights we now insist upon do prevent many types of abuse.)

Reading between the lines of the reports, most of the folks taken down to dry out are the types who have been arrested before, will be arrested again, and probably could have been arrested that night (well enough that they wouldn't be prevailing even if one of our better civil rights lawyers took the case). Since they're drunk enough that they're not feeling much pain ("wasn't that a party?"), peace is restored all around, they get a good night's sleep and a meal, no (additional) arrest record or conviction, and all is well, so nothing comes of it.

I'd be happy if after this the good folks of the bluest of all states are not only no longer locked up for not violating the law, but also are no longer locked up for what they might do ("dangerousness hearings" resulting in no bail for non-flight-risks in less-than-capital cases, "civil commitment" following the end of criminal sentences.)

(Until the last of the Puritans die, I will not forget that liberal is not at all the same as libertarian, especially when it's of the NIMBY limousine variety.)
7.12.2005 1:02pm