Public Intoxication Law Raises Legal Questions Among Area Bar Owners - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock


Public Intoxication Law Raises Legal Questions Among Area Bar Owners

Area bars owners are questioning what the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission calls a safety measure. Monday night, NewsChannel 11 took you behind the scenes of a four hour TABC public intoxication sting. Our cameras caught five arrests at four Lubbock bars, those arrests are a result of a TABC crackdown. They're hoping to reduce DWI's by 20% through making public intoxication arrests before they turn into DWI's. NewsChannel 11's Kealey McIntire tell us some call it a safety measure others call it selective enforcement.

TABC Crackdowns Helping to Reduce DWI's
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is performing the biggest DWI crackdown Lubbock has ever seen. NewsChannel 11 first told you about the plan in July. TABC identified the problem areas where the most DWI citations occur. Now they are targeting bars in those areas, making public intoxication arrests before they turn into DWI's. NewsChannel 11's Kealey McIntire rode along with TABC for a sting operation.

Jake's Sports Cafe Owner Scott Stephenson, employs 60 servers and bartenders. This Saturday, 800 people went through the building. TABC arrested one for public intoxication. Both Stephenson and undercover officers report the gentleman started trouble with the staff.

TABC also arrested another person outside Jake's for public intoxication. Stephenson said that person was never allowed inside because he was already intoxicated; he sees no problem with those two arrests.

"I think we kind of might have a bad rap that we're always providing alcohol and letting people get wasted and that's the last thing we wanna do," said Stephenson.

The law states, you commit an offense if you're in public while intoxicated to the degree that you may endanger yourself or another, but the word "may" is rising questions.

Attorney, Chris Brown said, "Because the statue says 'may' and not 'is' a danger, or 'has been' a danger, there is room for interpretation on both sides."

Brown has won a public intoxication case by proving to a jury that there was not enough evidence to show his client was a danger.

He said the same question can be asked of someone who's above the legal limit in a bar, but who has a designated driver. "That's where the argument is," said Brown, "You're not a danger to yourself or others. You have someone that's taking care of you who's not intoxicated."

TABC officers said if you're noticeably intoxicated in public they can arrest you, but they use careful judgement. For instance, Saturday night, officers thought two gentleman were fighting outside a downtown bar. However, after a quick conversation, officers determine they're not a danger and make no arrests.

TABC Sergeant Gene Anderson said, "I have my guys articulate that in their reports-- why do you feel it was, was he going to his car, he was reaching for his keys, he was argumentative. He was yelling at his girlfriend."

Stephenson trains staff once a month on how to recognize public intoxication, but he said what's more important is knowing when to stop serving. "If we're overserving, then all the sales in the world can't make up for someone getting hurt."

No bars received citations during Saturday's sting. TABC officers did not see employees overserve at any of the five locations they visited.

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