Meridian continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the Treasure Valley, and with this comes a more vibrant nightlife scene.
During a Tuesday city council meeting, Lt. Brian Caldwell of the Meridian Police Department presented a proposed ordinance that would change how the city handles public intoxication.
“We’ve noticed some issues in dealing with disruptive, intoxicated individuals and the limitations of the current criminal codes available for officers,” Caldwell said.
The current code and case laws require the reporting citizen to be a victim of disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct. This requires the person to later appear in court to testify against the suspect. Caldwell said many business owners and people are “reluctant” to go this far for various reasons.
The proposed public intoxication code would give officers the right to issue a citation or arrest a suspect, with the City of Meridian being the victim. This would mean only the officer would have to appear in court to testify against the suspect.
The code would allow an officer to observe an individual who is obviously intoxicated and showing signs such as watery eyes and slurred speech and enforce the code if needed. The code specifies that the person would need to cause a disturbance as a threat to themselves or others.
“It’s a no-brainer,” council member Joe Borton said. “I think it’s a great addition. Properly used, it proactively prevents problems. The classic example is the stumbling drunk walking towards a parking lot. So if you’ve got an opportunity to lawfully intervene and prevent those kinds of activities from occurring, it’s fantastic.”
The code allows for this to be enforced on public property and private property opened to the public.
“Sounds like we need this change,” council member Liz Strader said. “And alcohol, unfortunately, when used responsibly, is fine, but when used irresponsibly just causes a lot of social ills. And I appreciate the police department coming forward with this. If this is what we need to keep people safe.”
The City of Boise has been using a similar code since 1952. The Meridian ordinance will be put on a city council agenda to be voted on at a later date.