Spring Break is here

Well, it has been here for several weeks, as different schools take Spring Break at different times, sending their students to party in Myrtle Beach. The Season is in full swing. Except the local police departments, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle, don’t like college students drinking in their jurisdictions (or could care less but are raking in ticket money for the municipalities), and we see case after case of students arrested and jailed for either having beer or being in proximity to beer, charged with minor in possession or various other misdemeanors.
Sometimes they are valid arrests – such as when the students give consent to search and admit to possessing alcohol, for example. And there are those who walk down the street with a beer in their hand, oblivious to the fact that it is illegal and the police really do take people to jail for it.
But there are also many cases involving police walking into someone’s hotel room without consent and without a warrant, and arresting everyone inside if there is any beer in sight. Without regard to the Fourth Amendment, often based on a noise complaint from neighbors or from management. And without regard to what they will actually have to prove if the case were to go to trial – simply being in a room with beer on the table or even in the fridge does not equal possession. Constructive possession, just as in a drug possession case, means that you will have to prove that the person knew that the beer was there, and that the person had the ability to control it’s disposition (it has to be their beer).
I’m interested in knowing how many minor in possession of alcohol cases each municipality makes each summer, and how much money they generate. When the person arrested doesn’t plead guilty and pay a fine at their bond hearing, the city courts now send out letters to all who are arrested, telling them about pre trial intervention (PTI) or the alcohol education program (AEP), which accomplishes 1) less jury trial requests; and 2) more income for the government.
I’m not knocking pre trial diversion programs, they are a wonderful thing for someone who has no prior record when the government can prove the case against them, but how many people whose rights were violated, or who are just not guilty, are going through pretrial diversion, doing community service, submitting to drug tests, or forced to attend counseling (depending on which program they are in), because it is easier or because they cannot afford to fight the charge?

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