25 August 2012

Public Intoxication

Spent much of the day in Knoxville, Iowa on Friday. District Court handles felonies in the morning and Associate District Court handles misdemeanors in the afternoon. I have been blessed with an appointment representing a person with two charges of public intoxication enhanced in that he has had several prior convictions for the same offense. His crime, really, is being obnoxious. Although he receives social security disability he is homeless for all practical purposes. Due largely to the fact that he has nothing to do all day, he drinks a large quantity of beer and then, allegedly harasses motorists as they drive their vehicles on the streets of Knoxville. Under any definition, he would be found to be mentally unstable at a minimum; but he has no history of actually harming himself or others including damaging property. He is in fact a nuisance, alarming people by standing in the road yelling at them as they drive by. There have been no reports of any passer-by stopping to engage him in conversation or asking if they can be of assistance. The response appears to be to call the Knoxville Police to deal with the situation. One wonders where the horde of social workers are when they could actually be of some service. The Iowa legislature has made it a crime to be drunk in public. If you have been drunk in public more than two times the judge may send you to prison for two years. Now, I have it on good authority that the Iowa Department of Corrections does not want you if your crime is public intoxication. However, this does not restrain the Marion County Attorney's office in requesting the local judge to send defendants to prison for being drunk in public. I have requested a rationale for this position, but as yet have not had a satisfactory answer. I have also suggested to the county attorney that it should be a defense to public intoxication if you are homeless. I receive no response to this suggestion other than a chuckle, but it does make some sense. The real crime here is that of being obnoxious. America has a history of incarcerating people who make a nuisance of themselves. That practice continues unabated.

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