By Berit Ollestad
Business was brisk in Morristown Municipal Court one day last week as St. Paddy’s parade revelers took turns, heads bowed, to plead guilty to urinating or drinking in public.
The town collected nearly $12,000 from 24 people who paid $489 apiece in fines and court fees after pleading guilty to these offenses.
Municipal Judge Gary F. Troxell opened the proceedings by sternly explaining the perils of public urination.
“It’s unfair to the residents of Morristown to be subjected to the smell of urine wafting thru the town, especially after a good rain. Perhaps Morristown will follow the example set by Hoboken for addressing public urination,” Troxel said, referring to Hoboken’s eye-popping $2000 fines and mandatory community service for such offenders.
There was no option to plead to a lesser charge last week. The choices were either guilty or not guilty. Those pleading not guilty must come back and explain why it was mistaken identity or what were the extenuating circumstances.
One of the accused told the judge that the establishment where he was imbibing had no restroom facilities, and so the security staff instructed him to use the parking lot to relieve himself. He was one of only two on Thursday to plead not guilty; he will be given a new court date.
Many streets were moist on the weekend of the March 10 Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade. Morris Avenue clearly took first place, with DeHart Street and Dumont Place a close second.
According to court Administrator Mary Anne Dillon, 43 cases of urinating and drinking in public were on Thursday’s calendar. Twenty-six of those individuals appeared in court, and 24 guilty pleas brought in $11,736 in fines and court costs.
Police records indicate that 23 summonses were issued for urinating in public. Another 22 tickets were issued for public drinking, and eight more were written for soliciting without a permit.
Additionally, there were 18 arrests for disorderly conduct and four more for driving while intoxicated.
That is slightly more arrests than last year–when there were 13–but it appears that fewer citations were issued this year. In 2011, Morristown police reported issuing 135 summonses, including 88 for public drinking and 46 for public urination.
“Thousands upon thousands of people enjoy the Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the atmosphere that surrounds it,” Morristown Police Chief Pete Demnitz said in a statement. “A very small percentage of people in Morristown on that day engage in behavior that requires police and other emergency services attention. The Morristown Bureau of Police, with help from many police and emergency services agencies around this county, address these situations in a timely, efficient and effective manner.”
With the exception of one female, it was clear the boys in town were behaving very badly on this parade weekend. The parade attracted folks from across New Jersey, as well as from all five boroughs of New York. There even was a “parade guest” from Los Angeles, Ca., who used Dumont Place as a urinal.
The judge found himself having to explain that the town isn’t in the “discount business.”
A woman who was cited for selling parade paraphernalia without a permit complained that after she was ticketed, she went to use the restroom and subsequently her husband was ticketed. The woman asked if the judge would be willing to offer a “2-for-1 discount” if they both agreed to plead guilty and pay both fines at once. With a slight grin, Judge Troxell politely declined her generous offer.
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