By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, August 27, 2004
[Photo illustration by Jay Reiter]
HAMPTON - Two Canadians came to Hampton Beach this summer to see the sights but were detoured to the police station after being charged with violating the town's open container ordinance.
They spoke no English and didn't realize that the town had a such a bylaw.
That bylaw, as well as the state's open container law, has been keeping Hampton police busy this summer.
Captain Jamie Sullivan said it's not unusual to see a high number of arrests for open container violations, especially during the tourism season.
"During a normal summer, it's not unusual to make in the vicinity of 800 to 900 arrests related to alcohol," said Sullivan.
Sullivan said although that may seem to be a lot of arrests it's not really because Hampton Beach is a tourist destination.
Hampton Beach has several signs warning that no public drinking of alcohol is allowed on the beach, said Sullivan. But that doesn't seem to stop people.
From July 21 to Aug. 5, the Hampton Police Department made more than 70 arrests related to alcohol, according to police logs.
Sullivan said his department is proactive in going after people violating laws relating to alcohol.
"We want to put a stop to it before it escalates into a bigger issue for us," he said.
The town bylaw against carrying an open container was passed in 1981.
The bylaw states that it is unlawful to possess or consume alcoholic beverages on any public street, highway, alley, sidewalk, parking lot, boardwalk or public beach within town limits.
It was spawned from numerous problems at the beach caused by excessive drinking, according to The Hampton Union archives.
After the bylaw was passed, there was a large increase in drinking-related arrests. The figure rose from 210 arrests in 1980 to 687 arrests in 1981.
In 1998, a federal program was established to encourage states to adopt laws that prohibit possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the passenger areas of motor vehicles.
Currently, 36 states and the District of Columbia have open container laws, including New Hampshire.
Sullivan said if someone is caught with an open container he is usually taken into custody.
Once arrested, if the individual is from New Hampshire he is usually released on personal recognizance. If he is from out of state, he may be required to make bail, Sullivan said.
"If the person is from out of state, they may be considered a flight risk," said Sullivan. "They may have to pay a bail to ensure that they show up in court."
Sullivan said if someone is convicted of an open container conviction, usually he will have to pay a $125 fine plus $50 penalty assessment.