Last Tuesday’s arrest of Edgar Martinez, Jr. on charges of “public intoxication” and “disorderly conduct” not only involved an act of criminal over-reaction by Prince William County Police, it was an act of criminal aggression devoid of support in the Virginia criminal code.
Martinez, a 55-year-old grandfather, was tasered three times in front of his grandchildren at a baptismal party. His pregnant daughter-in-law, the mother of the two children being honored at the event, was tasered when she tried to assist Martinez. Seeking to justify this outrage, the police alleged that Martinez was “intoxicated” and had been arrested for “disorderly conduct.”
Aside from the fact that available evidence appears flatly to contradict the official police account, the police had no authority under state law to arrest Martinez on his own property for intoxication or “disorderly” behavior.
The Virginia code (18.2-415) defines “Disorderly conduct” as behavior occurring “in public places” — not in one’s own backyard.
The statute requires that the conduct in question must suggest “the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm,” or that the accused “recklessly [create] … a risk thereof”; it also includes provocative actions “having a tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, such conduct is directed….”
Perhaps the police assume that any gesture of non-compliance or display of resentment on the part of a mundane is sufficient to provoke them to violence, and therefore would fall under the statute. But as the video record demonstrates, Martinez was cooperative; furthermore, since this incident took place on his own property, the entire discussion of “disorderly behavior” is moot.
The same is true of the intoxication charge, since Martinez was in his own backyard. Interestingly, the statute’s language dealing with intoxication refers to disruption of state funerals, memorial services, or meetings. Alas, it doesn’t refer to the disruption of peaceful private gatherings by power-intoxicated mouth-breathers armed with Portable Electro-Shock Torture devices.
(My thanks to Rick B. for providing me with the citation from the Virginia state code.)10:34 am on August 4, 2009 Email William Norman Grigg