At a parade in Canada, a drunk man with a Grinch-like hairdo pulled a Grinch-esque stunt by telling children nearby that Santa wasn't real. The man was cited with causing a disturbance by being drunk, which is probably equivalent to a summary charge of Public Drunkenness in Pennsylvania. As a criminal defense lawyer and a father of three young children, I do not believe that the man should have been charged.
Is Ruining Christmas For Children a Crime
While I do not think that having a drunk man telling children that Santa Claus is not real is appropriate behavior for an adult, I do think that it could be readily explained to my kids. While almost everyone is familiar with the Grinch story, I admit that I am becoming a Grinch expert as I repeatedly watch the Grinch cartoon movie, and the Grinch movie featuring Jim Carrey, as well as read the book with my children. The Grinch's initial plan is to ruin Christmas by doing naughty things, and this drunk man was doing the same naughty thing by telling children that Santa wasn't real. I believe that I could readily explain to my children that this "Grinch," one that was probably slurring his words and having some difficulty standing, had consumed a little too much egg nog or eaten some tainted trash. I could then proceed to tell my kids that this Grinch was trying to ruin Christmas by spreading blasphemous lies about Santa, and I would let my children know that lies would put the Grinch on Santa's naughty list again. Again, while the actions of the drunk man would not make me happy, he was simply doing a fine job of playing the Grinch, at least the Grinch portrayed in the story before his heart grew three sizes.
Not Guilty of Pennsylvania Public Drunkenness
From a legal perspective, I don't believe that a charge of Public Drunkenness would be warranted here. In Pennsylvania, simply being intoxicated in public without more is not a crime. Instead, a person must be drunk to the extent that he poses a danger to himself or annoys others in the vicinity, but the primary factor is that the alcohol must play a role in the annoyance. My wife routinely tells me that I am annoying, but simply being annoying is not a crime. The crime of Public Drunkenness requires that I am manifestly under the influence of alcohol, and the over-consumption of alcohol causes me to be annoying.
While I believe that the man would clearly have caused a public annoyance to nearby parents, what the man was saying was actually accurate. Simply because the man had some liquid courage that caused him to espouse his opinions should not be a criminal offense. To an extent, the man was simply playing the role of the Grinch a little too well in trying to ruin the Christmas of small children. Maybe the Grinch-esque drunk man will go before a good legal judge, or simply a judge with a normal sized heart, that will exercise some good judgment and throw out the charge of Public Drunkenness.