With our large entertainment district and flourishing craft beer scene, it is not surprising that about 10% of all arrests in Austin are for public intoxication. The process of jailing intoxicated people, fingerprinting them, and having court hearings is lengthy and frustrating. The city also faces unsettling accusations of racism and homophobia, since some people feel that they are targeted for being a minority. So in order to save the county both time and money, Austin is creating a plan to decriminalize public drunkenness and keep people out of the criminal justice system.
The Travis County Commissioners Court is making efforts to change the laws and open a sobriety center downtown. The proposed plan would allow police to detain intoxicated people and take them to the sobriety center until they are sober. Intoxicated people would not face any criminal charges, and they would be free to leave without any consequences after they are no longer drunk. Supporters of this plan feel strongly that it would prevent the court system and county jail from being overburdened.
Other cities have put similar plans into effect and Houston reports that it has saved $1.8 million by opening a sobriety center and decriminalizing public intoxication. The City of Austin hopes this new plan will support and help people who abuse alcohol, instead of jailing and punishing them. Once this plan goes into effect officials will be able to focus on more serious crimes.
Though there are moves to change Austin’s laws about public intoxication, it is still currently a crime. Fatal accidents are on the rise here in Austin and we urge everyone to drink responsibly and to never get behind the wheel if you have been drinking. If you’ve been involved in a serious car accident, especially one caused by an intoxicated driver, contact Terry & Kelly PLLC online or call them today at 512-910-2000 to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.
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