Crime in a Free Society: Selections from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice

By Robert W. Winslow | Go to book overview

10 Drunkenness offenses

Two million arrests in 1965—one of every three arrests in America—were for the offense of public drunkenness. 1 The great volume of these arrests places an extremely heavy load on the operations of the criminal justice system.It burdens police, clogs lower criminal courts, and crowds penal institutions throughout the United States.

Because of the sheer size of the problem and because of doubts that have recently been raised about the efficacy of handling drunkenness within the system of criminal justice, the Commission sought to reexamine present methods of treating drunkenness offenders and to explore promising alternatives.It was not in a position to undertake a comprehensive study of the complex medical, social, and public health problems of drunkenness.


The Existing System

Drunkenness Laws

Drunkenness is punishable under a variety of laws, generally describing the offense as being "drunk in a public place," often without providing a precise definition of drunkenness itself. 2 Some laws include as a condition that the offender is "unable to care for his own safety." 3

____________________
1
1965 FBI Uniform Crime Reports, p. 117 (table 25). In 1965, 1,516,548 drunkenness arrests were reported by 4,043 agencies, embracing a total population of 125,139,000. Projections based upon these figures indicate that there were over 2 million arrests in the entire country during 1965. An undetermined number of additional arrests for drunkenness are made under disorderly conduct, vagrancy, loitering, and related statutes.See, e.g., Foote, " Vagrancy-Type Law and Its Administration," University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 1956, 104:603 (discussion of interchanging of statutes for like purposes); Murtagh, " Arrests for Public Intoxication," Fordham Law Review, 1966, 35:1-7 (description of the prior New York City practice of using a disorderly conduct statute to arrest nondisorderly inebriates.
2
E.g., D. C. Code Annotated Secs. 25-128 ( 1961). The D. C. statute also prohibits drinking an alcoholic beverage in public.
3
E.g., Wisconsin Statutes Sec. 947.03 ( 1955).

-248-

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Crime in a Free Society: Selections from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Crime in a Free Society - Selections from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice *
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: The Amount and Trends of Crime 34
  • 3: Criminal Statistics —an Urgently Needed Resource 73
  • 4: The Etiology of Crime 106
  • 5: The Ecology of Crime 142
  • 6: Professional Crime 163
  • 7: White-Collar Crime 175
  • 8: Organized Crime 191
  • 9: Narcotics and Drug Abuse 217
  • 10: Drunkenness Offenses 248
  • 11: The Police 257
  • 12: The Courts 289
  • 13: Corrections 324
  • 14: A National Strategy 361
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