Fairfield reduced penalties for public drunkenness, then realized it made a mistake

A month after Fairfield City Council reduced the penalty for being disorderly while intoxicated, it fixed the mistake Monday night.

On Dec. 9, City Council approved a series of ordinances related to Fairfield’s traffic and general offenses codes based on a company’s recommendation. Among the host of changes, it was inadvertently recommended the city reduce the penalty for disorderly conduct/intoxication, said city law director John Clemmons.

The Ohio Revised Code classifies this as a minor misdemeanor, but cities can have more severe penalties, as long as the offenses remain misdemeanors.

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The disorderly conduct/intoxication offense has been a fourth-degree misdemeanor for 15 years in the city, Clemmons said. Monday night, City Council “put it back the way it had been.”

Fairfield Police Chief Steve Maynard caught the mistake when reviewing the ordinances that were approved and told Clemmons it needs to be changed back as soon as possible. There was, however, a small gap of time where code took effect.

The Dec. 9 ordinance was passed without enacting an emergency provision, which means it took effect 30 days later. But, the fix did not go before the council more than 30 days after the Dec. 9 meeting. Council passed the fix on Monday with the emergency provision enacted, which means that ordinance took effect immediately.

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Maynard said there were no issues related to this ordinance during the time it was dropped to a minor misdemeanor, which only allows officers to issue a citation, “and most of the time that doesn’t work.”

Leaving it a fourth-degree misdemeanor permits officers to make physical arrests if necessary, said Maynard. If someone is intoxicated and not listening to lawful police orders, officers can physically arrest and remove that person from the situation.

“We can take them to the police department, and if they calm down fine. If not, then we take them to jail,” Maynard said.

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