Enforcing public intoxification laws in bars

Good! Clayton Cramer explains to Glenn Reynolds why it’s not obviously silly for police to enforce public intoxication laws in bars. He thus saves me the trouble of a long post.

Bottom line: while only a small proportion of those who become intoxicated do stupid or criminal things, a large proportion of all stupid and criminal acts are committed by people who are intoxicated, and bars are indeed public places.

One point that Clayton doesn’t make, in response to Glenn’s assertion that the obvious next step is giving people sobriety tests at home for fear they should then go out: Very few people actually sleep in bars. Sobering up occurs at the rate of about one drink per hour. Bars have parking lots because many patrons drive to them. A drunken bar patron has a very high likelihood of becoming a drunken driver when he leaves. Someone getting drunk at home has a better chance of sleeping it off safely.

I hope someone has noticed the terrific research opportunity the crackdown creates to discover whether such enforcement actually cuts down on the rates of drunken driving and drunken assault. Whatever the legal justification for the policy in question, it still ought to be abandoned if it doesn’t produce results.

Perhaps I should mention here my personal alcohol-policy hobbyhorse: a law to forbid the purchase of alcohol by those previously convicted of alcohol-related crimes.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com