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updated: 7/23/2014 5:10 PM

St. Charles police seek to define "intoxication"

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  • Members of the St. Charles Liquor Commission, from left, Robert Gehm, Rita Payleitner, Ray Rogina and Chuck Amenta, all agreed the city needs its own definition of "intoxication" to combat problems caused by downtown tavern patrons.

       Members of the St. Charles Liquor Commission, from left, Robert Gehm, Rita Payleitner, Ray Rogina and Chuck Amenta, all agreed the city needs its own definition of "intoxication" to combat problems caused by downtown tavern patrons.
    James Fuller | Staff Photographer

 
 

St. Charles police don't agree with the definition of "intoxication" used by downtown tavern owners. So, with the help of city aldermen and the Illinois Supreme Court, city police are developing their own meaning of the term when it comes to dealing with over-served bar patrons.

Deputy Police Chief Steve Huffman told members of the city's liquor commission this week that his officers frequently hear from tavern owners that the city can't hold them to city code that would punish the owners for serving or harboring an intoxicated person when there is no definition of intoxication in the city code.

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To address that issue, St. Charles police recently sent an officer through the same training program used for bartenders and servers at most of the city's downtown taverns. The program, known as Basset certification, is a course approved by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.

The program describes intoxication with such examples as a patron exhibiting slurred speech, falling off a bar stool or being slumped over the bar.

"We found the definition of intoxication that Basset provided was not nearly sufficient," said Deputy Police Chief Steve Huffman.

Police turned to City Attorney John McGuirk for a definition that would address recurring problems of bar fights, disturbances and public urination committed by patrons of the downtown taverns. McGuirk came back with a definition taken from jury instructions approved by the Illinois Supreme Court:

"A person is intoxicated when as a result of drinking alcoholic liquor there is an impairment of his or her mental or physical faculties so as to diminish the ability to think and act with ordinary care."

Huffman said the definition would be more in line with wording that will allow the police to work with tavern owners on how to identify an intoxicated person. Members of the city's liquor commission agreed. They sent a recommendation to the city council to adopt the new definition into city code. Mayor Ray Rogina said he hopes bar owners review the definition and court cases where the definition was used to identify intoxicated patrons.

Aldermen will likely vote on the new definition next month.

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