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Mar 072012
 

By Teri Walker –

Two bills that Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon participated in drafting are moving on to the House of Representatives for review after being passed by Arizona’s Senate.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, sponsored both bills, which she submitted in January when the second regular session of Arizona’s 50th Legislature convened.

Senate Bill (SB) 1082 focuses on the issue of public intoxication.

“SB1082 represents a bi-partisan effort, led by Senator Sylvia Allen, to address the serious health issue of public intoxication in northeastern Arizona. This bill is the product of an almost year-long stakeholder process that not only included representatives of a number of Arizona cities and towns, including Holbrook, Page, Winslow, Flagstaff and Scottsdale, but also the Navajo Nation, Navajo County and the Arizona Department of Health Services,” said Senator Jack Jackson Jr., D-Window Rock.

Carlyon helped draft the legislation as part of his role on a committee appointed by Allen to tackle public intoxication issues taxing northeastern Arizona communities. Navajo County Sheriff K.C. Clark and Holbrook Mayor Jeff Hill also served on the committee.

Government and law enforcement officials have struggled over the years with the constraints of existing state statutes that do not allow individuals to be arrested for public intoxication. Aside from the social factors tied to having drunk or otherwise impaired people in public places, officials are concerned with the growing health and safety issues associated with repeat offenders–alcoholics or other substance addicts–who are chronically intoxicated and often creating safety hazards for themselves or others, and at risk of exposure to the elements.

SB1082 originally attempted to address the health and safety issues with language allowing law enforcement to enforce a mandatory 72-hour hold of publicly impaired individuals in detox centers or other facilities, with the intention of allowing individuals to completely sober up and, hopefully, agree to enter a detox program.

Carlyon said the 72-hour period was a sticking point in discussions about the bill, with senate committee members finally agreeing to an up to 48-hour hold, instead, before passing the measure.

“We ended up amending it to read 48-hours to alleviate concerns. This gives us a starting point. If it isn’t sufficient, we’ll be knocking on their door again,” said Carlyon.

Some of the disagreement over various provisions in the bill stemmed from the different needs of the communities engaged in the intoxication committee. While Navajo, Apache and Coconino county communities deal more with issues of repeat offenders and health concerns related to rampant alcoholism, cities such as Scottsdale are dealing more with the entertainment district party scene.

“Scottsdale police contend with the 20-somethings that are stupid for one night,” said Carlyon.

He said the City of Scottsdale wanted to include a provision in the bill that would allow municipalities to hold intoxicated individuals in the city jail for up to 24 hours if there is not a detox center within city limits, as is the case in Scottsdale.

The sheriffs of Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties were concerned with this provision, Carlyon said, because they’re trying to steer away from using jails as drunk tanks; they’re more concerned with addressing the public health problems and getting repeat offenders into detox programs with the hope of treating their alcoholism.

“Our problems are different,” said Carlyon. “Our aim is to make sure we get language that gives us both flexibility.”

Carlyon said the bill might see some additional “tweaking” before being passed by the House of Representatives, but he expects the new legislation will provide a starting point for better addressing the complicated issue. Jackson agrees.

“This legislation alone will not solve the health and safety issues associated with public intoxication, but it is an important step in the right direction,” said Jackson. “My hope is that the momentum generated from the passage of SB1082 will lay the foundation for a more comprehensive remedy in the years to come.

“I urge my colleagues in the House to support SB1082,” Jackson concluded.

A second bill drafted by Carlyon for this legislative session, SB1080, also recently made it out of the Senate.

SB1080 would amend the current statutes related to grand juries, allowing county boards of supervisors to choose to empanel grand juries for up to 180 days, or six months, rather than the current maximum of 120 days.

“There is a large cost to the county when we empanel a grand jury,” said Carlyon.

He said the costs to counties of empanelling grand juries could be reduced by one-third if the bill passes.

The biggest impact is, of course, on jurors, Carlyon conceded.

Currently, when a grand jury is empanelled in Navajo County, it meets from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Tuesday, four times a month for four months.

“After the first time, we’d survey the grand jury participants and evaluate their experience,” said Carlyon. “I don’t think we’d get much dissatisfaction from those who serve.”

The bill is being promoted by the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, as other Arizona counties face similar budget pressures that are causing them to look for cost-saving measures wherever they may be found.

Grand juries run at the state level are empanelled for 180 days.

Carlyon said he doesn’t foresee any real opposition to the grand jury bill when it goes before the House of Representatives for a vote.

Of the public intoxication bill he said, “Like in the Senate, I expect it will elicit a lot of discussion. I believe, ultimately, it will come out in a form that will benefit us.”

Carlyon expects both bills should make it to the House for a vote within the next couple of weeks.