July 13, 2005

You've got to fight for your right to get drunk!

Fri, July 8, 2005 AP

A man arrested when police showed up to break up a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s house has filed a lawsuit, arguing he had a Constitutional right to get drunk on private property as long as he didn’t cause a public disturbance.

emphasis mine

After reading this article I read through the Constitution and it’s Amendments to see if I felt this guy has a leg to stand on. The first thing I noticed is that there is nothing in the Constitution regarding the right to get drunk anywhere. Of course there is the 18th Amendment banning Alcohol and then there is the 21st that repeals the 18th, but other then that I saw nothing that actually said someone has a right to get drunk.

As I first read this, I thought he might be covered by the fourth Amendment, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” I quickly changed my mind after reading the following:

Laverriere said that he drank several beers, but wasn’t drunk, when officers arrived at his friend’s duplex saying someone had thrown bottles at a passing police cruiser.

That means that the police where investigating the crime. If the owner of the dwelling had any common sense he would have exited the house, closing the door behind him baring the police from access to his home. If had denied them access to the home, then this may not have been an issue. It’s hard to tell what they would have saw while the door was open, however according to the article it seems that most of the problems started once the cops where in the house. I don’t think the fourth Amendment is going to help anyone out here.

(I’m not a lawyer, I do have a law degree and worked in Law Enforcement, I never let a cop in my house unless I called them there or they have a warrant. Even if I call them I tend to talk to them on my front porch. I’m not about to give up my fourth Amendment rights for anything. Even if they do enter or as in one case they searched my vehicle, I keep telling them that I don’t want them in my house, searching my vehicle, etc. I’m sure some of the lawyers out there will tell you this may not be the best strategy, but it’s what I do. )

After ruling out the Fourth Amendment I then decided to look at what else could be out there to help this poor lad out. It was then that I thought that maybe this would fall under the little used and rarely cited ninth Amendment. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain right, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” I’m sure some of you are asking yourselves, “What in the hell does that mean?” After looking through my legal books and various opinions online, to paraphrase, it basically means that “the number of rights listed in the constitution shall not be the only rights kept by the people and that these other rights shall not be degraded, or depreciated or negated by refusal to accept the truth or existence thereof. “ – Chuck Klein. Guns & Ammo Magazine 12-99.

I think here we have a base for a decent argument here. Do we as citizens of the US have the right to drink, let alone get drunk? I think we do. If we didn’t have a right to drink alcohol they wouldn’t have repealed the 18th Amendment. Thus it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to come to the conclusion that if it is a right to drink, then as a side effect of drinking, we have a right to get drunk. If we have the right to get drunk were should we do this, in public or private? I would have to say you have the right to get drunk in both. However, when you are in a public location others now scrutinize your actions. If you are perceived as a threat or “danger” to yourself or others then it is up to the police to intervene. If you are in someone’s private home and you are doing nothing that is a crime, then I feel the police should stay out of it. If this guy was in a bar, drunk off his arse and the police hauled him away, I don’t think he’d have a case at all. HOWEVER, he was drunk in the privacy of a friend’s home. Sure maybe his right to privacy is subject because he was not in his own home, but he was in a friends home and in my opinion that gives him a reasonable expectation of privacy. I will also concede that if a bottle was thrown at a police cruiser that the gathering wasn’t all that peaceable.

What was this guys threat to him or others? Was he so heavily intoxicated he couldn’t remain conscious? Not according to the article. Was he flashing a weapon about? If he was, the press didn’t mention it. Did he try to drive off in a car? According to the article he was planning on staying the night. At worst, from what I’m getting from the article, is that he was uncooperative with the police. Is being uncooperative with the police a danger to yourself or others? Based on that and what I wrote earlier in this post. Let's say I’m at my house having a small party; we’ve had a drink. One of my neighbors gets the nerve to call the police to complain about noise. When the police come to my door I stop out on the front porch and close the door behind me. They ask if they can come in, with respectful, “Hell no” I decline to invite them. They can smell alcohol on me, and decide to arrest me for “My own protection”. Because my drinking led me to be uncooperative and one of the cops is getting pissed, his anger has caused the urge to beat the ever-living snot out of me, thus putting me in "danger". They surmise that if I had been sober I would have let them in and all would be well. When in reality I had only just started drinking so I wasn’t drunk and I wouldn’t let them in no matter what.

What worries me is that this law in Massachusetts pretty much gives the police carte blanche to just arrest anyone they feel is intoxicated and is a “Danger to themselves or others”. I know many people that are a danger to themselves or others sober, let alone drunk. Add a beer, and a cop using this law, could just arrest that individual. What is next, it is illegal to have an IQ below 120 because you may endanger yourself or others?

Yes, I went to an extreme there, but I agree with this kid. I don’t feel that he should have been taken into custody. I could just see something like this being used against my friends or me, especially around a campfire at a re-enactment with all the black powder around.

With the Blogcrawl coming up shortly I was wondering what my reader’s opinions on this is. Please don’t be afraid to speak up, even you shy ones that read here and for some reason don’t comment. I’m really curious as to what everyone else’s opinion is.

Posted by Contagion in Rants and Raves at July 13, 2005 04:46 PM | TrackBack

Being drunk in the privacy of your home, or a friend's home... cool. There should be no reason that the cops lug someone off for their "protection." This guy may or may not have been the bottle thrower, but they can't just walk in and haul him out because he starts video taping them. Wish I knew the whole story here.

Nevertheless, we have the rights to do what we wish, as long as we're not infringing on other's rights... or affecting their safety. Especially in private. Publicly, we still have those rights, but there are more responsibilities with them.

Can't wait for the 30th. We'll chow, get smashed and throw bottles at police cruisers as they go by! :)

Posted by: That 1 Guy at July 13, 2005 05:13 PM

I gotta say - if you're in a private home and not hurting anyone LET IT ALONE.

Key word - PRIVATE.

And as I learned....never let 'em in your door unless they got's the paperwork. Ouch.

Bet his next party won't be so well attended.

Posted by: Tammi at July 13, 2005 08:54 PM

I'm with you on this one, Contagion.

Posted by: Harvey at July 14, 2005 09:30 AM

Very interesting analysis -- seems to be rather solid to me.

In addition -- if this law is upheld, it gives the government the absolute power to arrest someone to "protect" them...and if they have that power, then government also, by default, has the power to determine what is and what is not safe...oh but I guess they already have that power...drugs, seat belts, etc. Damn.

Posted by: Ogre at July 14, 2005 10:12 AM


Jesus Christ, if you can't get drunk in your own home.. ?

Or would they have us giving up blogging altogether?


Posted by: Sally at July 14, 2005 05:13 PM