Press-Republican

Columns

March 6, 2013

'Stupid' doesn't excuse criminal behavior

Time after time, young people with no prior arrests are charged with crimes for doing something “stupid” while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

All too common examples in downtown Plattsburgh are stealing or damaging street signs or property from a homeowner’s lawn or porch. If the damage costs more than $250 to repair, the charge is a felony.

Every year, courts see cases where kids were so drunk they went into the wrong house. They were looking for a friend or going to a party but instead went into the house of a stranger. 

Drunk intruders have been found asleep on the couch and in upstairs bedrooms or cooking in the kitchen. This “stupidity” frightens the people living there, and the intruders can be charged with criminal trespass.

CRIMINAL ACTS

Other times, people get into a fight or are making so much noise that neighbors call the police. 

They make their situation worse by arguing, or physically interfering, with the officer. Frequently, they have a marijuana pipe in their pockets; the residue in the pipe is charged as unlawful possession of marijuana.

These behaviors of everyday life aren’t just embarrassing; they are criminal acts. Sometimes, people know full well what they did; other times, they do not remember anything.

Once they are in court, they want the judge to know that their bad behavior was “a mistake” or “poor judgment” and not indicative of who they really are. 

Clearly, they did indeed make mistakes and exercise poor judgment, but that does not mean what they did was not a crime. Nor does it mean that getting intoxicated excuses criminal behavior.

IN HANDCUFFS

Crimes have many consequences for the people committing them. The immediate impact is being put in handcuffs and arrested. You might remain locked up if you cannot afford bail or do not qualify for the pre-trial release program.

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