The Platteville Common Council is scheduled to decide the fate of a proposed public intoxication ordinance later in July.
The ordinance is based on public intoxication ordinances in La Crosse and Menomonie, two cities that, like Platteville, host UW four-year campuses.
Police Chief Doug McKinley told the Common Council June 25 the ordinance is “in my opinion a very good fit for our community. … Ideally it will be a deterrent to the overconsumption of alcohol.”
The ordinance is based on four definitions, which define public intoxication by a person’s behavior rather than a person’s level of intoxication:
• “Intoxicated person”: someone whose “mental or physical functioning is substantially impaired as a result of the use of alcohol, drugs or another controlled substance.”
• “Incapacitated person”: Someone who, because of the use of alcohol or drugs, “is unconscious or whose judgment is so impaired that he or she is incapable of making rational decisions,” as demonstrated by “extreme physical debilitation, incoherence or physical harm or threats of harm.”
• “Public place”: Includes schools, churches and businesses.
• “Public nuisance”: A public “disturbance of the peace,” including “endangering himself or herself or other persons or property,” acting “unruly” or “combative” or with excessive noise, refusing to follow a police officer’s instructions, and refusing to leave a business at the direction of a business owner or employee.
McKinley said the behavior described in the ordinance often does not meet the statutory definition of disorderly conduct. The proposed ordinance would allow an officer to arrest someone based on that person’s actions without requiring tests for intoxication first.
Penalties for violating the ordinance would start at $100, which would become $263.50 after a $26 penalty surcharge, $23 jail and crime lab drug surcharge, $89.50 Justice Information System Surcharge/Court Support Service Surcharge, and $25 circuit court costs.
In addition to deterring overconsumption, McKinley said the ordinance would help recoup the labor costs of tying up officers “babysitting” intoxicated people.
At-large Ald. Mike Denn questioned if the ordinance could be applied to someone “minding your own business” walking home to avoid driving impaired, stumbling and “bang, you’re intoxicated … I see this is as a problem with the whole thing.”
“I’d like to view this as a tool for overintoxication” based on “observable behaviors … it’s more gross behaviors,” said McKinley.
A public intoxication ordinance was one of six proposals the council chose in March to deal with issues generated by Second Street bar patrons. The six were the consensus out of a list of 17 proposals developed during meetings between Second Street bar owners and city officials.
The other five proposals, on which the council has not taken action yet, include:
• Requiring bars to have electronic recording devices to check IDs.
• Requiring the city Licensing Committee to review police reports of incidents occurring at businesses with liquor licenses. The committee could create standards for when to suspend or revoke a liquor license.
• Issuing underage-drinking citations to the business and the employee who serves the underage-drinker.
• Blockading part of Second Street on Friday and Saturday nights.
• Selecting a location where taxis and designated-driver vans can pick up and drop off those visiting Second Street.