Video: Busting drunks in bars
updated 3/24/2006 5:42:26 PM ET 2006-03-24T22:42:26

Texas has decided to crack down on drunkenness, no matter where it takes place.  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has increased the number of undercover agents it sends into bars to bust drunk patrons.  In some instances, the officers even pose as bar-goers to blend in. 

So far, the sting operation has resulted in about 2,200 arrests or citations.   Carolyn Beck, who’s the spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, says it ought to be illegal to get drunk in a bar.  Beck discussed the crackdown with Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, "THE SITUATION":  First of all, I don’t think most people know that it’s illegal in Texas to be drunk in a bar.  Why is it illegal to be drunk in a bar?

CAROLYN BECK, TEXAS ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE COMMISSION: It’s illegal to be drunk in a bar to the extent that you may be a danger to yourselves or others.  And so I guess that’s the explanation of why it’s illegal, is because it’s dangerous. 

CARLSON:  How is it dangerous to be drunk on a bar stool?  I’ve done it many times and never felt imperiled.

BECK:  People who become intoxicated tend to lose their ability to make good decisions.  And the more you have to drink, the more likely you are to put yourself in a dangerous situation or do something that causes danger to other people. 

One of those things, and the thing that’s the impetus for all of this, is the danger that someone will get drunk and they get behind the wheel of a car and cause an accident.  Texas has the highest DWI fatality rate in the United States.  And that’s what we’re trying to work on. 

But there are people who are cited or arrested for public intoxication who are not driving, and that’s easy to explain, too.  There are plenty of other dangerous things that people do. 

CARLSON:  We don’t arrest people for things that might happen.  We don’t arrest people with bad tempers, because they might punch someone out.  Or people who have the urge to steal for theft, right?  I mean, why don’t you arrest drunk drivers?

BECK:  You arrest drunk drivers who may make it home safely, but we think that they might not make it home safely.  We think the odds are that somebody driving drunk will get in an accident. 

And we think the odds that somebody who is not driving but is extremely intoxicated will also get in an accident or cause an accident.  Drunk people get in fights.  They walk down streets that they normally wouldn’t otherwise, dangerous neighborhoods, because they feel overly confident. 

CARLSON:  Wait.  You’re going to arrest people because they put themselves in danger of being mugged?  That can’t be real.  You said they walk down dangerous streets.  I mean, you’re going to arrest people to protect them from being mugged?

BECK:  We are arresting people who are violating the law, and the law says it’s illegal to be intoxicated to the extent that you may be a danger to yourselves or others.  People put themselves in dangerous situations, and they create danger for other people.

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  I’m sorry.  I’m resisting the temptation to use the phrase creeping fascism, because I think that’s probably a slight overstatement.  However, I just want to make it perfectly clear to our viewers, these are people who haven’t committed the crime yet, apart from the crime of being drunk.

BECK:  Apart from the crime is being drunk to the point that they may be dangerous.

CARLSON:  They haven’t started a fight.  They haven’t been drunk driving.  And of course, I as every American is, totally opposed to drunk driving.  But they haven’t done it yet, and you don’t have evidence that they’re going to do it.  Right? 

So it’s just the possibility that a drunk person is not fully in his right mind, is reckless.  For that possibility, you bust them, send them to jail.

BECK:  That’s right.  But you know, our focus here is the behavior of the bartenders and the wait staff who are serving alcohol to the intoxicated people.  We’re trying to control the behavior of the retailers that we regulate, who we license, and trying to discourage them from over-serving patrons, because it’s the over service of patrons that leads to intoxicated people that leads to drunk driving. 

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second.  What do you mean over-served?  Why is that your business?  I don’t even drink, but let’s just say I did, and I wanted to drink in a bar.  That is so not your concern, so not your business.  It’s up to me whether I want to get drunk or not, A.

B, isn’t it better that I’m getting drunk in a bar and not sitting alone with a bottle of vodka on my couch like a pathetic loser alcoholic?  And, C, if you’re against drunk driving, why not wait outside till drunk people get in their cars and bust them then?

BECK:  OK, I don’t remember A.  B, I’m not sure that I agree with that.  And C, the problem is if we wait outside, we can’t see who served the person.  That’s the problem.  Our main focus is the people who are selling the alcoholic beverages.  Those are the people you regulate.

CARLSON:  A was why is it your business?  Who are you to determine what over-served is?  Who are you to determine whether or not I ought to get drunk?  If I’m an adult, isn’t that my business and my business alone, as long as I hurt no one else?

BECK:  When prohibition was repealed, the authority was given to each state to regulate the alcoholic beverage industry within their borders. And part of that is regulating public drunkenness and regulating the service of alcoholic beverages.  It’s illegal in Texas to serve alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. 

CARLSON:  OK.  You have the right to do it.  I’m not contesting that.  You represent the state, and the state can execute shoplifters or people who wear orange neckties, if it wants.  It can do whatever it wants; it’s the state.

My question is should you be doing it?  A lot of bad things are going on in the world even in Texas.  Why harass drunk people in bars?  I’m just saying it’s a matter of perspective.  Don’t you feel kind of bad about doing it?

BECK:  I don’t feel bad about doing it.  Drunk people make bad decisions.  They put themselves and other people in danger.  They put me and my family in danger and other people in Texas.  I don’t feel bad at all. 

CARLSON:  All right.

BECK:  The laws are in place for a good reason, and we encourage people to go out and have a good time with their friends, but we encourage them to do it safely. 

CARLSON:  But not too good a time.  I couldn’t disagree more, but I appreciate your game defense of the indefensible.

BECK:  Thank you very much. 

CARLSON:  Unbelievable. 

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