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Citizen! Step away from the beer!
January 1, 2003 11:04 PM   Subscribe

SWAT tactics being used to combat public drunkenness in Fairfax County, Virginia. Go to a bar or restaurant and risk being "escorted" outside by teams police in full riot gear, given a sobriety test, and arrested if you've had more than a drink or two in under an hour. Thank god our tax dollars are being used to keep us safe from the danger of slightly tipsy people celebrating the holidays in establishments that legally serve alcohol. Not like they have anything better to do.
posted by KiloHeavy (30 comments total)

 
...should they find any customer over the legal alcohol limit of .08 or suspect a customer of being intoxicated while still being served or present in an establishment, police can write that person a ticket for public intoxication

Sorry, isn't .08 the legal alcohol limit if you are driving...not if you are sitting in a public place?

As a frequent designated driver, do I run the risk of being charged with aiding and abetting public drunkenness?
posted by filmgoerjuan at 11:44 PM on January 1, 2003


Yet another reason to dislike Virginia.
posted by Kikkoman at 11:47 PM on January 1, 2003


VIRGINIA RULES! dude
posted by Witty at 11:55 PM on January 1, 2003


Is it normal in other states for such establishments to be considered as a public place? It seems unusual that a piece of private property would also be defined as public
posted by gyc at 12:44 AM on January 2, 2003


I live in VA, in Alexandria, which though an independent city, is technically in Fairfax County, where this bullshit is occuring. It's probably just another excuse to raise revenue for the county, but it can't be long before some of these restaurant owners bring lawsuits. Makes me want to go to one of these restaurants and get shitfaced, just so I can get "busted" and then call the ACLU.
posted by KiloHeavy at 3:36 AM on January 2, 2003


This is a test being driven by John Ashcrofts's goons.

Think about it.

Also, watch as they start raiding private homes now, for some excuse or other.

I feel like Calvin and Hobbes as they start their sled ride down the huge slope. It's slippery and we're moving faster!
posted by damnitkage at 4:33 AM on January 2, 2003


Hoi, law enforcers of Virginia, how does this make the public safer?

police are allowed free access to such places, i.e. pubs and, should they find any customer over the legal alcohol limit of .08 or suspect a customer of being intoxicated while still being served or present in an establishment, police can write that person a ticket for public intoxication

So if they suspect you are intoxicated, in a pub, you can be given a ticket for public drunkeness. Ok, the law's the law, you probably can't molest squirrels on the second Thursday of every month in Virginia or something either.

That the police actually do go into pubs, haul people outside, give them DUI tests and fine them for being .08 or over (and jeez, that aint much booze in the system) boggles the old coconut.

If people are driving dangerously, being a public nuisance, a menace to themselves or others then arrest them whether they're very slightly tipsy or not, but harassing folk minding their own business pisses off people from all shades of the political spectrum and gives the impression that 'all coppers are bastards', while doing precisely diddly squat to 'protect and serve' anyone at all.

So hey, nice PR work Virginia police!
posted by backOfYourMind at 6:08 AM on January 2, 2003


They should be harassing and ejecting anyone paying more than $3 for a beer.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:20 AM on January 2, 2003


People arguing for the unending right to destroy themselves never ceases to boggle me.

That said, this is somewhat over the top, I think.

They should've kept the riot police for when they actually pull them out of the car after being stopped for suspicion of drunk driving.
posted by angry modem at 6:40 AM on January 2, 2003


People arguing for the unending right to destroy themselves never ceases to boggle me.

Not so sure having a couple toasts at midnight on New Years is exactly "destroying yourself" Sure moderation is key, especially in moderation, but I'm not sure that going out on New Year's automatically makes you an alcoholic.

Now, I'm not defending what I find to be an invasion of privacy, but I suppose if I were going to confront people who I knew had been drinking, I'd want all the riot gear I could wear!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:00 AM on January 2, 2003


I will argue for my rights to do absolutely anything that does not harm other people, Angry Modem. I don't have the right to drive drunk, but I certainly have the right to drink, even in a bar. Besides which, drunk and 0.08 are two very different things. Drunk is a state of being, and the alcohol level will be different for different people. Furthermore, drinking does not make me subject to random searches to test my drunkenness unless I am driving. The only way the police could require a sobriety test in a bar is if they had probable cause (see my explanation of the word drunk, above. My having had a drink does not give them probable anything), or if they were using the driver's license contract, in which you typically have to agree to testing upon request. If the latter is the case, it is a gross misuse of the law, and possibly invalidates the driver's license contract entirely, due to improper disclosure of the scope of the provisions.
posted by Nothing at 7:20 AM on January 2, 2003


VA and dozens of other states go by the federally mandated .08 blood alcohol content rating - a few states still go by the slightly more relaxed .10 standard from a few years back. (More and more states are moving to adopt the stricter .08 standard or they risk loosing federal highway and road funding.)

There are several calculators out there on the web that allow you to get an idea of how much you can consume in a given amount of time - for me (being 6'1", 195lbs, male) I can drink 3 beers OR 2 glasses of wine in an hour and be over the .08 limit.

The .08 limit is really draconian - but DUI is still a problem in most areas. Sadly though it appears as if most police departments are more interested in entrapping people into the "system" in order to generate revenue than really helping the community.

As far as these thugs cops in VA are concerned, I think Dr. Dre said it best...
posted by wfrgms at 7:33 AM on January 2, 2003


It's your own fault for living in Virginia. Move to a state where drunkenness is not a crime.
posted by subgenius at 7:59 AM on January 2, 2003


Well, DUI (DWI? Different states, different names) is a dumb excuse to hassle anybody who hasn't broken the law but might, if that's really the idea here. I've gotten plastered at a bar a couple of times and the barkeep has called me a cab. I appreciate the cops not wanting to deal with the aftermath of drunken driving, but I'd rather see establishments be required to sell one-and-only-one drink to a customer than this kind of stuff.
posted by alumshubby at 8:42 AM on January 2, 2003


Jimmy Cirrito, who owns and runs Jimmy's Old Town Tavern, said 10 or so officers who showed up in SWAT-like garb were intimidating and unnecessary.

Personally, I don't consider being in SWAT-like gear the same as "SWAT Tactics". If they were sticking machine-guns in patrons faces maybe (or at the very least scaling down the side of the bar...)

Hopefully, someday we can create some psychic clone-babies that can poop out poolballs that tell us who intends to drive drunk before it happens...
posted by stifford at 8:58 AM on January 2, 2003


I'd rather see establishments be required to sell one-and-only-one drink

There's a great barbeque joint in North Carolina that has a one beer limit; they also do not tolerate cursing in the dining room.
posted by Dick Paris at 9:26 AM on January 2, 2003


If they were sticking machine-guns in patrons faces maybe (or at the very least scaling down the side of the bar...)

Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut!

I don't know what the specific law is in VA, but in Washington State the FST's (Field Sobriety Tests) are voluntary. If you refuse the breathalyzer at the station then the Department of Licensing automatically suspends your license, but that's related to the driving privilege and wouldn't seem to relate to being dragged out of a bar.

Any Virginia legal types care to comment?

Also, having worked in DC a bit myself, I don't think this would ever fly in the District. Our government would grind to a halt if young staffers were hindered from getting regularly shitfaced.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:47 AM on January 2, 2003


I grew up in Fairfax County. It's a nice place to be from.

Since someone getting drunk in a bar could possibly walk home, take a taxi, or get a ride, I don't think the police have any business going into the bar and testing people, unless maybe the people are extremely drunk and causing a disturbance.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:22 AM on January 2, 2003


Here's a fun fact about Fairfax, VA:

For every mile above 20 that you exceed the speed limit, you can expect to get 1 day in jail. Ex: 56 in 35 = 1 day in jail.

I live in Vienna and the above is my biggest concern. Fairfax has harsh penalties galore for everything you can imagine. Stuff like spitting in public can get you a ticket, for example....

Witold
posted by Witold at 10:55 AM on January 2, 2003


Here's another fun fact: radar detectors are illegal to operate in the state, but it's no points and they can't even confiscate it.

Or so I hear...
posted by NortonDC at 11:10 AM on January 2, 2003


Better Idea:

Station the cops OUTSIDE the bar, and bust the drunks getting into their car to drive home. As long as people are inside the bar getting drunk, I don't see a problem. Once they get on the road, however--
posted by 4midori at 12:11 PM on January 2, 2003


And what happens if you refuse a sobriety test? Remember, you're not driving, so they can't pull your license for it.
posted by pyramid termite at 1:53 PM on January 2, 2003


...not like they have anything better to do

They do.

posted by blogRot at 2:19 PM on January 2, 2003


Here's another fun fact: radar detectors are illegal to operate in the state

It was a sad day when they changed the state motto from "Virginia is for lovers" to "Radar detectors illegal."
posted by kirkaracha at 3:46 PM on January 2, 2003 [3 favorites]


This is a genuine question, so forgive me if it sounds stupid. In America, is it common to drive to a pub? Do you have pubs in residential areas, or are they restricted to commercial areas?
posted by salmacis at 3:50 PM on January 2, 2003


In America, is it common to drive to a pub?

In America, it's common to drive everywhere. I might know one or two people who have a bar or restaurant within walking distance, and even then it's not a close walk or it's through a dodgy neighborhood, so they feel safer walking. Most people I know just drink at home. I do.

There's very little "mixed zoning" in most cities--meaning no residential and commercial buildings in the same area. The dearth of mixed zoning brings with it a host of social, societal, economic and environmental ills that I don't have the time or stomach to relate ... suffice it to say I think current zoning laws suck. Hard.
posted by KiloHeavy at 4:04 PM on January 2, 2003


salmacis - also, americans have a weird attitude to alcohol. at least, for the kind of americans i meet who are like me (moderately well off, middle class, getting on for middle aged), alcohol is viewed with a fair amount of suspicion (not unlike tobacco). i have american neighbours whose faces were a sight to see when they were round at lunchtime one weekend and saw me help myself to a second glass of wine; the american neighbours of my parents don't own a corkscrew; another example is the comment above about restaurants serving just one beer.

to appease offended americans - the english (i am one) also have a weird relationship to alcohol: young people abuse it. i think we could all learn from the (mainland) europeans.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:46 AM on January 3, 2003


Yeah, and on top of all that Andrew, the woodworking school where I was taking a class in Maine would not let me drink during lunch! Something about large spinning blades and alcohol not mixing, blah, blah, blah. Cretins! ;-)
posted by Dick Paris at 4:22 AM on January 3, 2003


which reminds me - another example is that "they" only seem to be able to place alcohol in contexts from educational videos.

related note - a friend of a friend had a car crash when not wearing a seatbelt. i was amazed to find him ok (apart from mild concussion). i thought you automatically ended up with bloody pulp for a face and a contract for public safety tv ads.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:28 AM on January 3, 2003


Totally appalling abuse of power.
posted by Addiction at 6:28 AM on January 3, 2003


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