Two more people have joined a federal lawsuit against Foxborough police that claims the department is violating people’s rights with its practice of putting Gillette Stadium eventgoers into protective custody who are intoxicated but not incapacitated.
A total of four plaintiffs are now suing, seeking class action status for the case. The process could affect more than 1,000 people and take about two years to conclude, said Howard Friedman, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
Public intoxication has not been a criminal offense since state law was amended in 1971. An intoxicated person, however, can be held in protective custody if they are unconscious, in need of medical attention, likely to cause harm or damage to self or property, or disorderly, Friedman said at a press event today in his Boston office introducing the two new plaintiffs.
Friedman said that Foxborough appeared to be taking people into custody on the theory they might harm themselves or property, “but they’re taking into custody people who are simply intoxicated, and not a danger to property or person, and holding them far longer than they should.’’
“The idea of the statute is not to hold the person in custody. It’s to make sure people are treated and make sure they’re safe, not being taken to custody,’’ he said.
Douglas I. Louison, the attorney representing the town and Police Chief Edward O’Leary, said the town and the police department contend no one’s rights were violated.
“The chief and the town have run a rigorously constitutional program protecting individuals and the public who attend these massive events, and the town has maintained a constitutional, appropriate policy and they implement it,’’ Louison said.
“The interesting thing is that there are many, many instances of vastly incapacitated individuals who are attending these events, who become intoxicated and then become dangerous to themselves and the public,’’ he said. “The town truly believes and the police department truly believes they’re acting constitutionally and appropriately.’’
The suit was originally filed in September in US District Court in Boston.