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Scottsdale Drunk Law Struck Down

Scottsdale police are no longer permitted to cite or arrest someone solely based on being intoxicated in public. This is a result of the Arizona Court of Appeals opinion that stated that Scottsdale’s public-intoxication ordinance is actually preempted by a state law that prohibits local laws from criminalizing “being a common drunkard or being found in an intoxicated condition.” The legislator’s intent is to treat alcoholism as a disease and not as criminal behavior.

The ordinance’s legality was challenged by David Coles after he was cited on Dec. 21, 2011. At the start of this legal battle, Coles argued to the municipal court that his charge should be dismissed because of the conflicting state law, to which the court agreed. The city appealed the ruling, and the Maricopa County Superior Court reversed the municipal court’s decision. The Court of Appeals then reversed the Superior Court’s decision by agreeing with the municipal court’s initial holding.

Local defense attorneys expressed the possibility that if the ruling stands, any other criminal, public intoxication city ordinance will be unenforceable.

However, some community members are appalled by this decision. Bill Crawford, downtown business owner and Scottsdale City Council candidate, has expressed concern for the protection of those who live near the bar district.

“How can we have any right or wrong or any consequences for bad behavior with these decisions coming down from the bench,” asked Crawford. “They are everywhere. They’re wandering into the neighborhoods, running into cars, vomiting on the streets and creating a problem for law enforcement.”

Scottsdale officials are reviewing the decision to determine if further action is appropriate. Filing a petition for review to the Arizona Supreme Court is an option being considered. Whether this is even necessary is open to debate. Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark expressed that his officers rarely used the ordinance, since most individuals who warrant law enforcement attention are committing another crime as well.