Friday, March 24, 2006

Ken is interviewed on KXAN

If you have a drink in an Austin bar or restaurant, and you do something out of the ordinary, you could go to jail.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says they can spot people who’ve had too much to drink, just by looking at them.

It’s an issue creating a lot of controversy. It’s also creating a lot of arrests.

The TABC sting operation has increased arrests by 95 percent.

Agents are going into bars and restaurants looking for folks who are a danger to themselves or others.

When they spot someone drawing attention to themselves, that person is likely headed to jail.
“Don’t do anything more than anyone around you in a bar is doing,” TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are sending agents into bars to ticket people who have had too much to drink.

How can they tell? Simply, they look at you.

“You may be arrested and taken to jail and get a citation as well, It’s the officer’s discretion,” Beck said.
TABC busts are up 95 percent over the last year. Legal experts say there’s a reason for that.

“TABC is trying to justify their existence. They think that it is a politically popular thing to get out there and arrest folks,” defense attorney Ken Gibson said.

Gibson says the method TABC agents use to determine if you’re drunk is nothing short of harassment. If you do anything out of the ordinary, they’ll haul you outside for a field sobriety test.

“It’s the old, ‘I’ll know it when I see it.’ standard, and that’s not enough. There’s got to be more to it than that,” Gibson said.

The TABC insists agents can spot people who are a danger to themselves or others just by looking at them. They stand out. They’re a spectacle and easy to spot.

“Someone catches the attention of an agent in a bar, it means they’ve done something beyond what every other person in that bar who is also drinking has done. They’ve done something to bring attention to themselves,” Beck said.

That’s a claim Gibson doesn’t buy and says the conviction rate of these tickets and TABC’s ultimate success will be extremely low.

“They’re going to have a difficult time proving this person was a danger to himself or others when he’s sitting in a bar, not bothering anybody,” Gibson said.

Defense attorneys News 36 spoke with say they expect the conviction rates of these tickets to be less than 10 percent.

The TABC says their ultimate goal is to reduce over serving by bartenders and to prevent drunk driving.

That’s an issue everyone seems to agree on. It is the method the agents are using that’s drawing the most criticism.