San Jose Settles for $225,000 Against Lawsuit Over Drunk in Public Arrests

San Jose, CA – The City of San Jose will be paying the plaintiffs of civil lawsuits filed against the city for $225,000, a fraction of the original amount asked by the plaintiffs of the case. The lawsuits were spurned due to complaints about the city’s unlawful arrests and policies regarding public intoxication.

San Jose Settles for $225,000 Against  Lawsuit Over Drunk in Public ArrestsPublic intoxication or otherwise known as “Drunk in Public” is governed by the California Penal Code 647(f) PC. Public intoxication is a step lower from being arrested for DUI or Driving Under the Influence. Of course, people usually get drunk and sloshed in bars and clubs, the difference from being dead drunk and trying to get home from being charged with a “DIP” (Drunk in Public ) offense is when intoxicated individuals become unruly or starts heckling at others or they are unable to care for themselves while in a public setting. This type of charge is associated with disorderly conduct in public while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A Drunk in Public charge also uses the same field sobriety tests utilized in a DUI stop or arrest; like the breathalyzer and walking on a straight line test. A drunk in public conviction can result in probation, jail time and a fine of $1,000 maximum. Remember, same as a DUI charge, a DIP can affect employment because employers may check on an applicant’s record and see this, the employer might assume that the applicant has a drinking problem and therefore might not be a good candidate at all.

Going back to the San Jose lawsuit … San Jose has had the most number of drunk in public arrests than any other city in California but the major issue that the lawsuits had in regard to the arrest is that the officers involved in these arrests use racial profiling instead of randomly arresting a disorderly drunk. Most of these arrest, as the lawsuit claimed, involved Latinos.

The men who filed the federal civil lawsuit at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California back in 2008 were: Enrico Sagullo, Paul Cicala, and Erick Sanchez.

Enrico Sagullo from San Mateo was arrested after leaving a downtown nightclub in 2006 when he made an obscene gesture towards a group of officers who were ordering them to go away from the downtown area. He questioned the officer on the legality of the act and was then arrested for DIP.

Paul Cicala is a television anchorman from Palm Springs, back in July 2007 he was in the city for the Grand Prix auto race and was stopped downtown by the police in suspicion of being disorderly/intoxicated in public. He felt that it was a wrongful arrest and decided to record the incident but the arresting officer ordered him to cease recording and told him he acted like a lawyer.

The men claimed that they requested the officers to test them for intoxication but the officers refused. The three sued San Jose for $20 million.

In a separate lawsuit filed in 2009 by Ronald Heiman, a San Jose resident; Heiman claimed that in 2007 he was at his home at Hester Avenue Apartment, already in bed when the police knocked hard on his door. The moment he opened the door, he was arrested for public intoxication. Turns out it was a case of mistaken identity because the police went to the wrong house and were actually checking on a weapons disturbance report. Heiman was also suing for $20 million.

Though the city of San Jose has not acknowledged any fault of its police officers, the city has revised its policies in handling drunk in public arrests. In the new policy pertaining to DIP arrests, an officer has to offer alcohol screening tests to make sure that the individual is indeed intoxicated and have evidence to prove the charge. The arrests must then be signed by a supervisor and for the non-violent intoxicated individuals, officers are advised to make sure they get home safely instead of arresting them. A memorandum released by City Attorney Rick Doyle stated that the suggested settlement is feasible enough to avoid litigation.

Quoting Sappho: “Let us drink and be merry and if tomorrow we shall live, let us drink again.” But make sure you don’t get arrested for disorderly conducted while being intoxicated in public and don’t drink and drive. Happy weekend everyone.

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