Friday, February 25, 2011

Requiring Alcohol Prohibition As a Condition of Probation in Marion County

I don't often go to criminal court, but I was there this morning.  I saw an issue raised today that I haven't blogged about recently  So I thought I would revisit it.

Quite often in Marion County, the probation department will make as a standard condition that defendants agree to not consume alcohol during their probation.  Very often though the crime will have absolutely nothing to do with alcohol consumption. A defendant today had a drink on Valentine's Day with his fiance and was shortly thereafter hit with a test showing he was positive for alcohol consumption.  Even though his offense had nothing whatsoever to do with alcohol consumption, the probation department argued for a probation violation and that the defendant spend some time in jail for breaking their rules by having a drink.

If you wonder why our jails are too full, it is because of policies like the standard non-consumption of alcohol policy used by the probation department.   In addition to being bad policy that leads to jail overcrowding, the policy is also illegal.  Indiana law, specifically IC 35-38-2-2.3(a)(14), requires that any additional probation requirement beyond those listed in the code (such as a prohibition on alcohol consumption) be "reasonably related to the person's rehabilitation."  If the person's offense isn't related to alcohol, and there is no showing that the person has an alcohol problem, how is an alcohol prohibition "reasonably related to the person's rehabilitation?"

It's a shame that so many of those who work in the criminal justice system don't bother to read the laws they enforce.

See also:  Probation Revocation For Drinking a Beer, May 29, 2009


Nicolas Martin said...

Look a the company America keeps with its world-beating incarceration rate.

If you are unmotivated to look, the second, third, and fourth countries are Russia, Rwanda, and Cuba.

No rational person could consider this the practice of a "free country."

Every free-thinking person should bookmark the page at that link. The graphs are shocking.


Do they execute people instead of incarceration in the other countries? Curious cause I don't know.

Cato said...

True, Nic, and sadly. We have a police force in this country that has outright declared war on the people. They stopped calling themselves "peace officers" and self-applied the name "law enforcement," and that's when we lost America.

We have lots of laws. The cops take the position that every law on the books needs enforcing, so cops have a make-work project to last until infinity, or until the people here have their Tahrir Square moment.

This country doesn't get straightened out until our police get put back into a very narrow role and have greatly reduced power.

Nicolas Martin said...

Cato, the police are not the cause, they are the effect. The culprits are those who write the laws and those who manipulate them. Largely lawyers.

The cops do what the courts and the laws permit them to do, here as in any country. As the system has corroded, the police have become more abusive.

Here is a fresh and outrageous example of a court stomping on free expression:

Fully Informed Jury Arrest

Do you notice the bar association up in arms about such things as this site reports almost daily?

Police abuses merely supply lawyers with new sources of income.

Nicolas Martin said...

HFTX, the US is also among the leaders in state executions, though it is thought to lag far behind China.

But executions equal a small fraction of the total number of persons incarcerated, even in China.

Just ahead of the US in the number of persons executed by governments (2009) are China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Again proud company to be in.

Imagine: American officials think they are justified in lecturing politicians in other countries on how they should behave. The US is now, by various metrics, one of the world's leading enemies of individual liberty.

Cato said...

Nic, I disagree. The blame for the abusive police lies partly at the feet of politicians, heavily at the feet of judges, but moral accountability can never be removed from the actor. It's not a politician shooting an unarmed citizen.

These cops have backed the system into a corner. Politicians generally think that cops are a good idea, and judges always want to curry favor with the system to retain their sinecure, so the cops maneuver the politicians into providing more funding and a larger mandate, while the judges behave as is needed to keep their mortgages paid.

Nicolas Martin said...

Cato, I completely agree that the cops are responsible for their misbehaviors, but like the lions in the zoo, they are accountable to their trainers. Sometimes, though too rarely, the police are held accountable. Much more uncommonly are the politicians, judges, and lawyers held accountable. The cops are the sharp end of a knife held by attorneys.

Cato said...

Nic, I really think you give attorneys too great a role in this play. Attorneys are reactive, and the system despises the criminal defense bar and civil rights attorneys.

The systematic closing of America and empowering of police is proactive and far more coordinated than anything a group of plea bargainers could orchestrate.

Nicolas Martin said...

Cato, "attorneys" also includes judges and prosecutors, as well as the authors of the laws. Many people are defended by attorneys paid by, and therefore beholden to, the system.

Responding to me previously in this blog, Mr. Ogden has expressed the opinion that the small claims court dollar limit is too high. What little legal independence citizens have, he objects to.

Paul K. Ogden said...


"Responding to me previously in this blog, Mr. Ogden has expressed the opinion that the small claims court dollar limit is too high. What little legal independence citizens have, he objects to."

You really misinterpreted what I said. I was talking about the problem of collection companies forum shopping to get a favorable township small claims court. (With the exception of real estate cases, small claims cases can be filed in any township in Marion County.)

Townships make a lot of money off collection cases and there is an incentive to keep those plaintiffs happy so they keep their business in that small claims court. The debtor doesn't get a fair shake in many of these courts. Some township courts let the creditor attorney set the court's calendar and afford him or her every privilege.

The current small claims court system is very unfavorable to ordinary citizens in favor of big companies, in particular creditors in creditor-debtor type situations. It's a horribly biased system.

It is true that a lower threshold than $6,000 would put more of those cases in "big boy court" where the court won't have the built in bias to try to please the creditor to keep the business flowing into the court.

But that wouldn't be my first or even second choice for reform. I would much rather see them take the incentive away from Marion County Small Claims court to profit off of keeping creditor plaintiffs happy. The legislature or the Supreme Court needs to stop the forum shopping by requiring the case to be filed where the defendant lives. That would fix a lot of what's wrong with Marion County small claims courts.

Cato said...

Just remember, Paul, always move for arbitration if the credit agreement has an arbitration clause.

I'll take a panel over a judge, any day.