I-Team: High fines deter public drinking in Newport
NEWPORT, R.I. —
Tens of thousands of people flock to the St. Patrick's Day parade in Newport every year. It's supposed to be a family friendly day, but for some it's one big drunken party.
In 2011, about 100 people were arrested and charged with carrying booze in open containers or being drunk and disorderly.
Jim Donilan is a lawyer who represented two women who were charged with carrying open containers. They were each fined $700.
"I couldn't believe it. I was dumbfounded. You don't see that in the district courts. Even for a first offense drunk driving case the fine is, I think, only $300," Donilan said.
Donilan's client pleaded not guilty. They were found guilty, but the fine was reduced to $300.
Newport city ordinances allow for fines between $200 and $1,000 for disorderly conduct or carrying booze in open containers.
Are city officials using the St. Patrick Day revelers to make a pile of cash for city coffers?
One of Newport's prosecutors, Girard Glavin, told the I-Team that the high fines for open containers and disorderly conduct are not some money making scheme for the city, but rather to act as a deterrent to those hoping to come to Newport on St. Patrick's Day and drink a little too much and get way out of hand.
Glavin said the rowdiness was so bad a few years ago that the city considered doing away with the annual St. Pat's parade.
But Donilan questioned the deterrence factor.
"If they advertised it a lot more or if maybe gave a warning or if they arrested them and took them off the street for a couple of hours and arraigned them that day, they might have learned a lesson," Donilan said.
But apparently Newport officials don't make a big effort to get the word out.
The I-Team asked for on-camera interviews with the police and the city prosecutor. The police agreed, but then the prosecutor told the police not to talk and the prosecutor himself, refused to go on camera.