Is it illegal to walk and be drunk?
February 25, 2017 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I have been on dissability from work so been a bit bored around the house. Had about 7 shots of Jack Daniels today and decided to take a walk and maybe get a cigarrete this afternoon. Anyway it was so cold I might as well have been sober. I took a shortcut across some train tracks and a cop pulled me over. I answered all his questions and even allowed him to search me if he wanted too (I had nothing to hide except a receipt from yesterday for jack daniels and a box of matches). Anyway cop let me go obviously. But, for the future what is the legality of a situation like this? I didn't do anything wrong but, cross a set of rail road tracks by a school. It's saturday so school is out anyway.
posted by mamamia88 to Law & Government (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's illegal to trespass on railroad tracks.
posted by fixedgear at 3:30 PM on February 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

Assuming you're in the US, here. The train tracks are not public property, so you were technically trespassing if you weren't crossing at an actual crossing. And around here (SF Bay Area), a lot of people commit suicide by jumping in front of trains, so cops are often much more watchful of people near train tracks.
posted by rtha at 3:32 PM on February 25, 2017 [18 favorites]

And yes, walking while drunk *may* be illegal, in the "drunk and disorderly" sense, but if you weren't being disorderly (shouting, throwing stuff, etc.), the the officer may well have been just making sure you weren't going to A) pass out on the tracks or B) try to on-purpose get killed by a train.
posted by rtha at 3:33 PM on February 25, 2017 [9 favorites]

Where are you located? As usual, all "is it legal" questions depend on your location. Here is a super quick overview of public intoxication as something that may be illegal though.
posted by brainmouse at 3:36 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

It can be illegal:
Public Drunkeness
Public Intoxication

But my guess is that most likely, he stopped you because you crossed the rail road tracks, which is not only trespassing, it is something homeless people do and people who plan to "ride the rails" illegally and stuff like that. Being where you were was likely a big factor.
posted by Michele in California at 3:36 PM on February 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Well damn. Didn't know that. I live in the suburbs of chicago with no car and can turn a 30 minute walk into a 15 minute one by cutting train tracks. First time I had an issue with it. I can understand why it's suspicious though but, still.
posted by mamamia88 at 3:36 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Totally depends where you are. I don't think that Illinois criminalizes public intox, although individual jurisdictions might. Pubic intox is illegal in Iowa, although my sense is that cops use a fair amount of discretion about when to arrest people for it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:38 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oops: I was wrong. There is no jurisdiction in Illinois that criminalizes public intox. It looks like public intox is a misdemeanor in Indiana, though.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:45 PM on February 25, 2017

Also look at stop and identify statutes. It's always a case of "you may beat the charge, but you can't beat the ride"
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:51 PM on February 25, 2017

Was it a city cop or a railroad cop? Railroad cops will generally be a lot more interested in railroad trespassing than city cops. Ticketing people along the tracks and in train yards is basically what they do all day.

(Railroad cops are somewhat unusual in that they are railroad company employees as well as actual law enforcement officers. It's an historical artifact of the railroads expanding into the American frontier where the usual government infrastructure was not close at hand.)
posted by ryanrs at 4:09 PM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

People get killed by Metra trains while crossing the tracks with some frequency, much more often than you'd expect. Given that a lot of suburban Chicago cops don't have all that much crime on their hands (and, depending where you are, may consider walking suspicious, especially if you are a POC in certain suburbs), it doesn't surprise me at all that they'd stop you--they'd rather tell you off than deal with you being hit by a train.

(Most people can hear trains coming, but it can be hard to tell how far away they are. I remember once being on the way to school and having a disagreement with friends about whether we could cross when the barriers hadn't gone off, but we could hear the train. Amtrak blew through while we were debating.)
posted by hoyland at 4:17 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well it was a city cop and metra doesn't service my area though amtrak does but, amtrak only comes through once a day or so. The odds of getting run over are slim to none though someone did do it over the summer
posted by mamamia88 at 4:47 PM on February 25, 2017

Not sure how jurisdiction works in the US but in Canada the railway cops have authority 500m from the edge of any railway owned property (in my city this a huge swath of the city) and they are really aggressive about ticketing trespassers using informal crossings.

mamamia88: "The odds of getting run over are slim to none though someone did do it over the summer"

Someone gets hits by a train like every three hours in the USA. You never can tell when some unscheduled service (even a service train) might be using a set of tracks. People get killed or loose limbs all the time walking along/crossing railroad tracks. It's why the bulls are such hard asses.

hoyland: "Most people can hear trains coming,"

Most still leaves a lot of people getting surprised, potentially fatally, especially if intoxicated.
posted by Mitheral at 5:00 PM on February 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

In my jurisdiction, people who are publicly intoxicated are brought to the emergency department for observation until they are "clinically sober."
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:41 PM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I got arrested and thrown in jail in Texas for being barely tipsy in public. Its very real and sometimes a terrifying abuse of power. I'm pretty convinced I would have been let free if I had flirted with the cop.
posted by cakebatter at 7:22 PM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

As others have pointed out, public intoxication is a thing cops can bust you for. But, rules vary.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:37 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

The odds of getting run over are slim to none though someone did do it over the summer

I briefly worked for a freight railroad company (such companies actually owns the rail lines used for Amtrak and sometimes other local passenger rail.) The fax with the "incident reports" was in my office. It was grim. People are killed on train tracks constantly. Sometimes accidentally, sometimes suicide.
posted by desuetude at 10:44 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not your question, but I'd strongly recommend against taking 7 shots of liquor and then walking across train tracks.
posted by imalaowai at 12:20 PM on February 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

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