Are $2,000 Fines Unconstitutional?

[This post was originally published February 25, 2010, and Hoboken411 holds the same beliefs in 2011 – read on…]

Bait and Switch? Entrapment?

The whole debacle with the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Parade, and the ensuing community outrage, crazy parties, quality of life disruption, along with the ridiculous fines for drinking on the street or “unruly” behavior has been bugging me for a while.

For one, the city is encouraging both residents and visitors to come to Hoboken and celebrate the St. Patrick’s parade. It’s known that St. Patrick and alcohol consumption are synonymous. In other words, they’re promoting a citywide party that involves the imbibing of alcohol (and of course to celebrate the historic tradition of St. Patrick’s Day, our unique parade, associated festivities, and so on.)

The city of Hoboken is also known for the many bars that are packed into the mile square city, and has it’s fair share of booze-related issues each week. However, not to the enormous scale of a synchronized drinking event shared by tens of thousands of individuals on the first Saturday of March.

Encouraging thousands of people to ingest a substance known to cause bad behavior, violence, accidents and even death – but then fining them excessive amounts of money for the mistakes they have a higher statistical chance of making is just plain wrong in my opinion.

What is the purpose of the $2000 fine?

The Hoboken city government will try to tell you to your face that these fines are designed to be a “deterrent” for unacceptable behavior.

But as hard as we try, good judgment or awareness cannot be realistically expected for 100% of the participants – especially since there will be so many of them, including some undesirables, as well as “wet behind the ear” newbies who still have many life lessons to learn.

It’s obvious that the city is raising these fines to compensate for their own budget mismanagement – or to put it more directly – as a direct source of revenue (i.e., a hidden tax).

Two years ago, the city collected over half a million dollars in fines – and city officials must be drooling at the easy opportunity to add more money to city coffers.

Unconstitutional? Punishment fitting the crime?

411 note: If there are any lawyers out there looking for something to do – I’d suggest that a possible class-action suit against the city of Hoboken be considered for current and past fines issued.

The Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

A $2000 fine for walking on the sidewalk with an open can of Budweiser is most certainly an “excessive fine.” Especially considering that the fine for drinking and driving (DUI) – is considerably less – and much more of an offense. So at least we have a precedent or existing law to compare this to.

I’ve said this before – and will say it again: Public humiliation is much more of a deterrent to violating the law than a couple thousand dollar fine. An eight hour community service punishment and publication of the identity of the offending individual would work wonders. Perhaps make them walk (and clean) the sidewalks with bright orange (or green) t-shirts that say “Hoboken St. Patrick’s Parade Offender.” The shame and embarrassment would be enough to make most people think twice before committing that offense again. Showing photos and videos of previous offenders months before the next St. Patrick’s Parade would help going forward.

Any alternatives that make everyone happy?

If the city wants to have a big annual alcohol-infused party, some folks have suggested even relaxing the public drinking and intoxication laws.

  • Similar to how it’s done during Mardi Gras in New Orleans each year. Make a large designated area of Hoboken the “free drunk party zone” (say Washington Street – from Observer to 8th Street). This might help reduce the number of house-parties, bring more people to the city, etc.
  • Another idea is to build large Plexiglas “sobering chambers” where police can hold excessively drunk and problematic revelers for public display until they sober up. But since when is City Hall transparent?
  • Lastly, and the most extreme of all choices – is to eliminate Hoboken’s traditional St. Patrick’s celebration altogether – and celebrate it when everyone else already does – on March 17th. But this would impact the quality of performers and attendees, which would be a huge disappointment for the community.

How do you feel about the “excessive fines?” Or the parade in general?

Here’s a brief news segment from Eyewitness News which talks about the crackdown – but doesn’t go into details on what other remedies can be found to alleviate the problem, or whether the city has a right to levy such ridiculously high fines… like we’re supposed to simply accept them?

Enjoy the day nonetheless!

Leave a Reply

106 Comments on "Are $2,000 Fines Unconstitutional?"


elainetyger
Member
elainetyger
5 years 4 months ago

They should stop running extra NJ Transit trains to bring people to and from the parade. If they had to drive, they wouldn’t drink as much, especially if you publicize about checkpoints in and out of the city that day. Also put it on a Wed. night like the Memorial Day parade instead of a Sat. afternoon. If Wed. night is good enough for dead soldiers who defended this country, it should be good enough for any other nationality’s religious icons.

bluhorshu
Member
bluhorshu
5 years 4 months ago

Lighten up.[quote comment=”203752″]They should stop running extra NJ Transit trains to bring people to and from the parade. If they had to drive, they wouldn’t drink as much, especially if you publicize about checkpoints in and out of the city that day. Also put it on a Wed. night like the Memorial Day parade instead of a Sat. afternoon. If Wed. night is good enough for dead soldiers who defended this country, it should be good enough for any other nationality’s religious icons.[/quote]

homeworld
Member
5 years 4 months ago

And then you’d hear complaints that NJ Transit doesn’t run enough trains and the trains are so crowded that it’s a safety hazard…

Plus more trains means less drunks on the roads.[quote comment=”203752″]They should stop running extra NJ Transit trains to bring people to and from the parade. If they had to drive, they wouldn’t drink as much, especially if you publicize about checkpoints in and out of the city that day. Also put it on a Wed. night like the Memorial Day parade instead of a Sat. afternoon. If Wed. night is good enough for dead soldiers who defended this country, it should be good enough for any other nationality’s religious icons.[/quote]

animal_lover
Member
animal_lover
5 years 5 months ago

wait, wait…”act like an asshole, piss on someone’s stoop, pick fights, vomit, yell profanity at the top of your lung and throw your trash all over the place” this sounds like Zimmer initiated activities – whether through her press releases or lack of administration of the city sanitation.

Anneliese22
Member
Anneliese22
5 years 5 months ago
**This is not intended in any way to be a political comment about Dawn Zimmer.** It was better last year with the porta-potties, an idea I do believe came from Dawn Zimmer. I noticed that having places for the drunk people to pee that didn’t involve trying every store in town, only to be told the bathroom is closed even when the drunk person was willing to buy something, cut down on a lot of the angst of the drunk people. I felt it was unfair in years past for, say, Starbucks employees to just decide that the bathroom is closed to everyone, even paying drunk parade patrons, because they don’t feel like cleaning it at the end of the night. Kings did this also, as well as many other businesses. The city should ban that practice, with or without the porta-potties. The amount of the tickets has gotten insane. The HPD has to be careful giving them out, too, since they are so high. Two years ago I believe H411 did a story of a person on 13th that caught a “green shirt” peeing on his lawn, chased him, lost a crox, called the HPD, only to be given… Read more »
youme66
Member
youme66
5 years 5 months ago
No, Dawn Zimmer didn’t come up with the porta-potty idea. Parades have been using those for years and I remember a fight in front of the porta-potty by the bank at 4th & Washington in 2009. That was before Zimmer was mayor. The line of drunks in front of that toilet were disgusting and the stench from it was revolting. We passed by that scene as quickly as possible, took the PATH into the city and stayed until Sunday night.[quote comment=”203742″]**This is not intended in any way to be a political comment about Dawn Zimmer.** It was better last year with the porta-potties, an idea I do believe came from Dawn Zimmer. I noticed that having places for the drunk people to pee that didn’t involve trying every store in town, only to be told the bathroom is closed even when the drunk person was willing to buy something, cut down on a lot of the angst of the drunk people. I felt it was unfair in years past for, say, Starbucks employees to just decide that the bathroom is closed to everyone, even paying drunk parade patrons, because they don’t feel like cleaning it at the end of the… Read more »
emarche
Member
5 years 5 months ago

Public humiliation is a great idea, but it could arguably fall under the whole “cruel & unusual punishment” umbrella and so it’s not really an option.

Here’s my suggestion: ban the St. Patty’s parade for one year. Cancel the whole thing. Let the idiots go over to the city for their drunken shenanigans, but we’ll sit this one out. While we’re at it, get rid of ONE of the ‘Hoboken Music & Arts Festivals’. Use the savings from both events to throw ONE kick-ass parade/event that has decent security and something other than the usual mozzarella-in-an-arepa/corn-on-a-stick/poorly-perpared-sausage-and-peppers bullshit food vendors or the awful ‘I painted/knitted/filled-this-glass-bottle-with-pretty-colored-sand myself!’ garbage.

Turn it into a meaningful event, a source of pride for the town. Something unique, something fun, something actually worth going to rather than simply providing an excuse for Friday night to show up Saturday-day or lousy vendors with lousy crap to make a few extra bucks shilling their shoddy wares.

Where was I? Punishing the offenders? Put ’em up against the wall and shoot. Works in China.

xtreme
Member
6 years 4 months ago

The point I was trying to make with the “waterboarding” comment is that “the means do no justify the end.” Just because something is effective doesn’t mean its necessarily right. Conceptually, its the same issue. I think rightnyer summarized everything every nicely.

What I WOULD like to know is whether these fines apply throughout the year.

DISCLAIMER – I was not trying to offend. Just make a point.

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