Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:19PM - 531 Views

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Rachel Dove-Baldwin

Staff Writer

CHARLESTON - “The citizens of Mingo County should not have to endure this type of criminal behavior in a public place,” said West Virginia House of Delegate representative Justin Marcum, as he spoke with the Daily News concerning the growing problem of public intoxication (P.I.) in local communities.

“It’s a problem that’s truly plaguing our county and changes have got to be made to curtail these actions.”

Marcum was referring to a recent article published in the Daily News about an intoxicated woman who urinated in front of the entrance to the business. The woman was cited and released from custody for two reasons: the first being because there was no longer a P.I. shelter in Mingo County; and the second reason being that the laws that govern P.I. cases had changed, and it was no longer an offense that resulted in arrests in West Virginia.

“I’ve been looking at the statute regarding public intoxication in Kentucky, and it’s classified as a Class B misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to 90 days in jail, plus community service,” said Marcum. “Although I don’t necessarily agree with these penalties, I do believe that we need a law that makes this crime an offense that warrants an arrest and would include penalties that can be enhanced, if the defendant becomes a repeat offender.

“As the legislatures go back into session, this is something I will look to establish a solution to this problem.

“I feel that P.I. is a serious threat to the safety of the public.”

Regarding a penalty scale for a violation of P.I. that could be enhanced as the charges against a defendant progressed, Marcum said that he felt a mandatory eight-hours incarceration in jail or a P.I. shelter with medical clearance being given by a healthcare professional would, in his opinion, be the minimum punishment allowed for a first time offense. A second offense should carry a punishment of no less than 24 hours behind bars or in a P.I. shelter, with the addition of community service hours. If the defendant commits the crime a third time, Marcum thought they should be sentenced to 30 days in jail, made to pay a fine up to $200 and must be enrolled in either an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) 12-step program.

“We have got to address that this is a persistent problem that must be punishable by law,” said the delegate. “Crimes against the members of our local communities can no longer be overlooked.

“I commend the Williamson Daily News for breaking this story and bringing the severity of this problem to light,” said Marcum. “No one should have to endure circumstances such as these.”

Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks and Special Investigator Eugene Crum agreed wholeheartedly that changes need to be made to laws regarding P.I., and said that they were working toward a solution for the problem.

“Public intoxication is a serious matter that must be addressed,” said Crum. “It is creating problems for members of the public and their safety, especially those who reside or work in Williamson.”

“I want the residents of Mingo County to rest assured that I have their best interest at heart and when the legislatures meet again, this is a matter that will be discussed. I’m optimistic that new legislation will be reached that will allow our officers to enforce a form of punishment that will greatly decrease the number of P.I. cases in our county,” said Marcum.

Even though laws are presently in effect that prevent arrest in these cases, you are still encouraged to contact your local city, county or state police agency if you have a problem with or encounter an individual that is intoxicated. They will respond and make sure the perpetrator leaves the premises.

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