Police Chief Jeff Cayler
Police Chief Jeff Cayler
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Carroll City Council members Monday unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance change to the city’s handling of public-intoxication charges.

The measure will shift the charges from local to state in order to avoid potential liabilities for Carroll associated with medical charges. What’s more, the state-level charge is easier for judges to expunge from records of citizens who are perhaps hampered as adults in job searches by youthful tomfoolery public-intoxications charges attached to them publicly, said Carroll Police Chief Jeff Cayler.

Under state code, public intoxication is punishable by up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

In late July, City Attorney David Bruner received an email from a local magistrate suggesting that the city ordinance on public intoxication be repealed in favor of state authority. The city penalties were the same as the state’s, Bruner said.

Public intoxication has been one of the few city charges for which people can go to jail.

During discussion of the change, Cayler said his department deals with 30 to 40 public-intoxication charges annually. Most all are connected to other incidents, and Cayler says officers look to find other ways of resolving problems before they result in the charge.

“They don’t automatically arrest them,” Cayler said.

In some instances, Cayler said, the department has had to arrest pedestrians who were blatantly intoxicated and wandering out on a highway or into other dangerous situations.

“When I say walking that was probably being complimentary,” he said of the intoxication levels of some of the individuals charged in those circumstances.

If an individual is charged under any city code, 90 percent of any fines go the city and 10 percent to the state. The reverse is true with state charges executed in the City of Carroll.

But with city charges the city is responsible for any medical bills or liability associated with them — and Cayler noted that public intoxication charges frequently are associated with bar fights where medical issues come into play.

Meanwhile, the city recoups little money from intox charges, Cayler said.

“There is lots of exposure and little or no gain,” Cayler said.

The council has to pass two more readings of the new ordinance language for it to become law. City officials went with a first reading only Monday in order to provide time for any public response.