North Dakota Town Bans Booze Sales To “Habitual Drunkards”

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I’m not sure how I feel about this:

Police in the northeastern North Dakota city of Devils Lake have barred businesses from selling alcohol to area residents who have been jailed repeatedly in the past year for drunken offenses or detoxification.

Most of the 21 people on the initial list were American Indians who live on the nearby Spirit Lake Reservation, the Fargo-based Forum newspaper reported.

“To be honest with you, it did seem racially motivated,” said Paul Matheny, general manager of the tribe’s Spirit Lake Casino, who was asked by the Tribal Council to look into the matter.

Devils Lake Police Chief Keith Schroeder said the effort is data-driven. Those deemed “habitual drunkards” were taken into custody more than five times in the past year for liquor-related offenses or detoxification.

“It is a sensitive subject,” Schroeder said. “We are not singling out these people because of race.”

The list was pared to seven names after officials learned some of the offenses did not occur in the city. Tribal members who were jailed for reservation alcohol violations were housed in the regional jail in Devils Lake last year because the reservation’s jail in Fort Totten was being remodeled. Tribal council members had been hearing from upset constituents who were on the Devils Lake “habitual drunkard” list even though they hadn’t been in the city, Matheny said.

On one hand, I sympathize with the desire to keep booze out of the hands of people who persistently abuse it. According to the article, one person on the list has been put in jail for detoxification no fewer than 47 times. And the racial issue doesn’t bother me. As long as the list is based on behavior, it doesn’t matter if a specific race is responsible for a disproportionate about of that behavior.

That being said, this doesn’t seem to be sound public policy. As a practical matter, how are liquor stores and bars supposed to keep track of this list? Must all alcohol sales now be run through this database?

And what’s the next step, tracking booze sales? Are we going to start putting booze sales in a database? You might think that sounds absurd, but then there was a day when we might have thought it absurd that your cold medicine sales would be tracked.

Plus, the premise here bothers me. We’re holding the booze retailer responsible for what the booze consumer does. That’s not right. Hold the drunks responsible, not the retailers.

According to the article, the city of Devils Lake spent $9,000 last year on detoxifying citizens. I’m about as fiscally conservative as they come, but that’s a pretty small budget line item, especially in the context of what it’s likely to cost to enforce this list.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • kevindf

    Where is the ACLU?

  • Onslaught1066

    North Dakota Town Bans Booze Sales To “Habitual Drunkards”

    Congress and Buttfuckle hardest hit.

  • DelawareBeachHouse

    Eh. A dozen or so puking drunks in a town the size of Devils Lake could have a real effect on quality of life. Why should the taxpayers have to put up with it?

    Think of the enforcement as the local police putting the “broken window” theory into practice.

    RIP, James Q. Wilson:

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/03/03/james-wilson-coauthor-broken-window-theory/90gu1wBkSQSIvfXrF4TUSM/story.html

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I have a feeling that the drunks will probably find a way to get their booze regardless.

      I just don’t see how this solves the problem.

      • SusanBeehler

        It doesn’t solve the problem, like you said it is pushed off on the retailer.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          I agree.

          Drunks are going to get their beer, I’m afraid, and I’m not sure how much we can do about it.

          • DelawareBeachHouse

            Really? Do we know that drunks will always get their alcohol? Or rather, habitual drunkards will? Just a matter of faith?

            Anyway, what about the broken window theory of policing? NYC did improve after the cops (Giuliani) enforced the laws against squeegee bums and people selling dope in Washington Square, starting the city’s long comeback from chaos. How is Devils Lake any different?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Are we going to institute this sort of ban statewide? If so, good luck enforcing it.

            I shudder to think of the enforcement.

          • SusanBeehler

            One of the things I have been thinking about is why are we not “fining” more to cover the increased costs. Burleigh/Morton is looking at building a bigger jail and wants the property tax to pay for it or it has gone so far to ask for a bill to be introduced to bypass the procedure for a home rule charter so a sales tax could be instituted to pay for it. I have not seen where anyone is considering to raise fines. Why are law abiding citizens having to pick up the jail tab? Why can’t the incarcerated be fined for the time? There is something wrong with providing room and board at no charge for someone who breaks the law. If a mandatory sentence of so many days than maybe a mandatory fine too.

          • DelawareBeachHouse

            Who’s proposing state enforcement? Devils Lake is responding to a local problem, which is apparently worse there than elsewhere in North Dakota. It’s the kind of local decision-making to preserve the peace and community standards that conservatives should laud.

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    That means these guys have to drive out of town. What could go wrong?

  • DakotaDave

    This is a great idea. I wonder why nanny Bloomberg didn’t think of it first!? It’s just the tiniest Orwellian baby step. The intentions are so good that we shouldn’t be concerned at all, right? But why stop there? Maybe they should ban Big Mac sales to fat people. We could require McDonalds to weigh every customer before their order is placed. If the customer is found to be obese, they could be required by law to order a salad instead. Seriously, Rob, I don’t know why you opened this post with “I’m not sure how I feel about this”. Are you kidding?

  • Roy_Bean

    A few years ago the court jester/municipal judge in Fargo decided to make people “sit until you are sober”. He said that he wouldn’t approve bail until their blood alcohol reached the legal limit. He had the best of intentions and it sounded innocent enough except that to do it he was admitting evidence into the process before the prosecution had entered it and without giving the defense a chance to challenge it. That kind of messes with the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing. This will turn out to be similar, good intentions but unconstitutional.

    If the Municipal Court finds someone guilty and defers imposition of sentence for as long as is allowed then they can put all kinds of conditions on conduct during the time of the deferral. As of now, you can’t pre-sentence someone for a crime that they might commit.

    • camsaure

      Wouldn’t it be easier to jail them for any :infractions” they commited and if they did??

  • SusanBeehler

    Alcoholism has been defined as a disease. The disease needs to be treated. If a habitual user just stops without a supervised detox, they can die. Alcoholism kills. It is not as simple as not allowing someone to buy the booze. But maybe that is what they want; to kill the problem. This is where the mental health issues need to be addressed. At one point people were committed for using habitually.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I find the idea that alcoholism is a disease to be a little irritating. It’s a choice. Drunks know what drinking booze does to them, and the choose to do it anyway.

      That’s not a disease. That’s a conscious decision.

      I’m very fat. I’m not fat because I have a disease. I’m fat because I make a lifestyle choice (and I ought to be making a better one).

      • Tim Heise

        Agreed. It is a choice.

      • camsaure

        You are very right on that one Rob, You cannot become an alcoholic if you do not take the first and second drinks. But the same goes for being gay, you cannot become “gay” if you do not do the first or second act. .

      • SusanBeehler

        I find the definition irritating to. It is a choice to “fall off the wagon” once you have been sober for a time, but when you are suffering the shakes or dt’s whatever they want to call them, than it is more a physical need to get that next drink, just like “addiction” to heroin, your body starts to need it. Obesity is listed as a disease also, sometimes the “cravings” are part of the physical component “being fat” takes on. People do die from quitting booze cold turkey, the body can’t handle it.

        • two_amber_lamps

          Logical Fallacy, you put the cart in front of the horse.

          DT’s/physical addiction don’t cause the drinking that eventually lead to addiction… that is the conscious choice.

          • SusanBeehler

            If no one would drink than no would become addicted,but as you know prohibition was tried and most people believe it could never happen to them, you know to get the “disease”. Their bodies will tell them when they “caught” it.

          • two_amber_lamps

            False dilemma. You assume people have no choice in drinking. Yours is an assumption that you’re born with a “drinking gene” and those afflicted cannot help themselves to drink. By that definition, those with the gene can’t possibly not drink without immersive therapy. I’d say that’s a very dim view of your fellow man, an assumption that will power is nonexistent. How sad.

          • SusanBeehler

            I assume? I never said anything about a “drinking gene” and I never sad anything about they can’t help themselves. I would say you have a very dim view since you see things I did not write. Will power is one component overcoming any problem but it is not the only factor in a outcome or a answer to a problem. You seem to interject things into statements I do not make, makes me believe you have a preconceived notion of who I am. How sad.

      • Snarkie

        When you get a fatass diesease, and run out of money treating it, are you gonna take it like a man and die or are you gonna get on that public gravy train and be treated on public funds?

        Inquiring minds want to know. It’s an inevitability.

    • Onslaught1066

      Actually, ugly is a disease, and your husband found the cure for that on your wedding night… Alcohol, lots and lots of alcohol.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        You know writing horrible things like that reflects more on you than anyone else.

        • Onslaught1066

          Yes, I do.

          So what?

          • SusanBeehler

            Cyber bully!

          • Onslaught1066

            Dromedary!

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Grow up.

          • Onslaught1066

            And if I refuse?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Sigh…

          • Onslaught1066

            I would have started with that, you know how I am.

      • SusanBeehler

        What is your disease? I think you grew up without a mom to teach you some manners. Don’t you have anything to contribute to a discussion or do you know only how to call people names. I could set you up with a mental health evaluation. The first step is admitting you have lost control and willing to get help.

        • Onslaught1066

          After you falsely claimed to think, I stopped reading your drivel.

          Why don’t you join hanniturd in his sandbox and help him bob for Tootsie Rolls™?

          • SusanBeehler

            cyber bully

          • Onslaught1066

            Yes, yes, you already said that.

            Is ugly the only original thing about you?

          • SusanBeehler

            Yes Yes you already said that! Mr. Orginal

          • Onslaught1066

            Harpy!

          • Snarkie

            Ms. Beehler. You can ignore On-Mahdi-Slaught 1066. His mother never held him when he was a young lass.

  • nimrod

    I think it is a fairly common practice in smaller towns to not serve habitual drunks. Not a legally enforceable list, just a recommendation. I don’t think businesses could be punished for selling to those on the list. Thankfully, Law enforcement is not able to create their own laws to enforce based on their beliefs.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      It would be one thing for businesses to voluntary choose not to serve certain people.

      But let’s be clear, when the police ask you to do something, practically speaking yo don’t have a lot of choice.

  • VocalYokel

    Banning the sale of cigarettes to ‘habitual’ smokers will be next.

  • Snarkie

    “That being said, this doesn’t seem to be sound public policy.”

    Port doesn’t like the government spending money, but he thinks an effort to keep habitual drunkards from sleeping in the town drunk tank every night is bad policy. Port would rather throw money at wastoids so that they can express their freedom to use as many taxpayers dollars as possible while contributing nothing whatsoever.

    What a whiz kid Port is.

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