Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The latest Texas Joke...

A Cop Walks into a Bar... Arrests You. For Having a Drink!

Adam Weinstein at Mother Jones has the story about "Texas’ bizarre, racist liquor laws."
Arrested for drinking in a bar? Sounds like the ultimate catch-22. Since 2006, when Texas overtook California as the state with the most drunk-driving fatalities, cops and a beefed-up task force from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission have used a 1993 law as a pretext to enter any bar and arrest its patrons on the spot. The public intoxication standard, backed by the Texas-based Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is so broad that you can be arrested on just a police officer's hunch, without being given a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test. State courts have not only upheld the practice but expanded the definition of public intoxication to cover pretty much any situation, says Robert Guest, a criminal defense attorney in Dallas. "Having no standard allows the police to arrest whoever pisses them off and call it PI," he says, adding, "If you have a violent, homophobic, or just an asshole of a cop and you give him the arbitrary power to arrest anyone for PI, you can expect violent, homophobic, and asshole-ic behavior."

One officer found this behavior of the police so egregious that he blew the whistle.
For some officers, PI has provided a ready-made reason for detaining minorities. A Houston defense attorney, who asks to be unnamed since he specializes in misdemeanors such as PI, puts it this way: "If you're brown and you're around—you're going down." Nick Novello, a 27-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, blew the whistle on three colleagues who he claims filled their arrest quotas by picking up people, mostly minorities, for PI. "They were illegally arrested," Novello says. "It's an absolute perversion." (Two were removed from the force.)
This law is being used to round up and arrest blacks, Hispanics, gays and immigrants across the state of Texas.
According to a recent report by sociology and law professors at the University of California-Berkeley, the Dallas suburb of Irving has used "discretionary" public intoxication arrests to fish for undocumented immigrants. The Mexican consul issued an advisory telling migrants to avoid Irving. [...]
"But the question they're not asking is: How are these people getting put into jail?" [...]

After community activists took to the streets and airwaves, Irving's arrest rate for Hispanics plummeted. (Dallas and Irving are no longer part of the federal program.) In Fort Worth, protests over the Rainbow Lounge raid [Fort Worth's newest gay club]
elicited a quick apology from the police chief and promises to review the PI policy.

But the arrests have continued elsewhere, and no one is targeting the public intoxication law itself. Many people don't care, Novello says, "because they can't vicariously experience this injustice." The Houston attorney puts it more bluntly. "As long as police are going out there fucking with the blacks and the Mexicans, until it hits the people with the power, they won't care."
Read complete article HERE.

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