Hontz v. State

Citation105 Wn.2d 302,714 P.2d 1176
Decision Date27 February 1986
Docket NumberNo. 51075-0,51075-0
Parties, 30 Ed. Law Rep. 1294 Robin Louise HONTZ, Michael A. Nelson, Suzanne Miles, Eugene Grissinger, Sr., and David J. Hillard, for themselves and other similarly situated, Appellants, v. STATE of Washington, Harborview Medical Center, County of King, King County Health Department, King County Sheriff's Office, et al., Respondents. En Banc
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Mark Jaffe, Seattle, for appellant

Kenneth Eikenberry, Att. Gen., Steven Milam, Asst. Atty. Gen., Seattle, for respondent Harborview Medical Center.

Waitt, Johnson & Martens, Barry M. Johnson, Norm Maleng, King County Pros., Mary Ann Condon, Deputy Pros., Seattle, for respondent King Co., et al.


The plaintiffs, five individuals, challenge the constitutionality of the Uniform Alcoholism & Intoxication Treatment Act, RCW 70.96A, and urge application of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to the alleged actions of the various Plaintiffs allege that in separate incidents they were involuntarily held in custody at the King County Detoxification Center (Detoxification Center) pursuant to RCW 70.96A.120. Two plaintiffs were taken by King County police directly to the Detoxification Center after certain incidents. The other three plaintiffs went to Harborview Medical Center (Harborview) for medical treatment and then were transferred to the Detoxification Center. Plaintiffs allege that they were subjected to false imprisonment, assault, apprehension of battery, outrage, emotional distress and deprivation of their 42 U.S.C. § 1983 federal civil rights. Other allegations will be considered in the opinion.

defendants. Plaintiffs also seek damages, an injunction and attorney's fees.

Plaintiffs sued the State, Harborview Medical Center, King County, King County Health Department, King County Sheriff, King County Detoxification Center and its director, and 26 John and Jane Does.

All defendants, 1 except the John and Jane Does, moved for partial summary judgment on two issues: (1) the constitutionality of RCW 70.96A.120, and (2) the application of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In its orders granting defendants' motions for partial summary judgment, the trial court held RCW 70.96A.120 to be constitutional and dismissed the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against these defendants. What happened to the John and Jane Does, unidentified employees of the various entities, is not evident from the record.

The trial court entered the direction and finding required by RAP 2.2(d), thus permitting this appeal. We affirm in part and reverse in part, but emphasize that we are ruling only on the constitutionality of RCW 70.96A and the application of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs' tort claims are not here.

I. Constitutionality of RCW 70.96A

The plaintiffs first contend that partial summary judgments against them on the issue of the constitutionality of RCW 70.96A were improper because defendants did not sustain their burden of proof as to the absence of genuine issues of material facts. That burden as to facts is upon the moving party. LaPlante v. State, 85 Wash.2d 154, 158, 531 P.2d 299 (1975). The more appropriate inquiry is whether the constitutional issue was properly raised by a CR 56 motion for summary judgment. A challenge to the constitutionality of a statute may be raised by a motion for summary judgment. See Kinnear v. Hertz Corp., 86 Wash.2d 407, 418, 545 P.2d 1186 (1976). See also Annot., Raising Constitutionality of Legislation by Motion for Summary Judgment, 83 A.L.R.2d 838 (1962). Obviously there is a potential difference when a statute is attacked as being unconstitutional on its face as compared to as applied. Usually there will be no material facts as to a facial challenge. Here, there is a challenge on both grounds. We rule only on the facial challenge. The summary judgment is proper as to that. 6 J. Moore, Federal Practice § 56.17 (1985). We have allowed such actions without analysis on this point. Hoppe v. State, 78 Wash.2d 164, 469 P.2d 909 (1970); Sator v. Department of Rev., 89 Wash.2d 338, 572 P.2d 1094 (1977).

As to the constitutionality of RCW 70.96A as applied, we cannot determine that issue on this record. The plaintiffs allege that they, individually, were not within the terms of the statute. The defendants presented no material to contest those allegations. A statute constitutional on its face may violate constitutional rights in its application. See, e.g., Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 85 S.Ct. 453, 13 L.Ed.2d 471 (1965); Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 6 S.Ct. 1064, 30 L.Ed. 220 (1886). On this record neither the trial court nor this court knows whether those allegations are Turning to the facial constitutionality of the statute, the plaintiffs argue that the statute is vague and overly broad. Therefore, we must analyze pertinent portions of the statute. RCW 70.96A is patterned after, but different from, in some respects, the Uniform Alcoholism & Intoxication Treatment Act (1971). We are concerned with RCW 70.96A.120(2):

true; therefore, we cannot determine the unconstitutionality as applied issue and must remand thereon.

[A] person who appears to be incapacitated by alcohol and who is in a public place or who has threatened, attempted, or inflicted physical harm on another, shall be taken into protective custody by the police or the emergency service patrol and as soon as practicable, but in no event beyond eight hours [be] brought to an approved treatment facility for treatment....

The definition of "incapacitated by alcohol" is contained in RCW 70.96A.020(7) as follows:

[t]hat a person, as a result of the use of alcohol, has his judgment so impaired that he is incapable of realizing and making a rational decision with respect to his need for treatment and constitutes a danger to himself, to any other person, or to property; ...

A person meeting those conditions may not be detained after he or she is no longer so incapacitated, or more than 48 hours, if still incapacitated, unless a petition is filed under RCW 70.96A.140. RCW 70.96A.120(4).

Thus, by the statute's language the elements which trigger protective custody are: (1) a person whose judgment is so impaired by alcohol that he is incapable of realizing and making a rational decision with respect to his need for treatment; AND (2) who constitutes a danger to himself, another person, or property; AND (3) is in a public place, OR (4) has threatened, attempted or inflicted physical harm on another.

The statute is presumed constitutional; one who challenges it must demonstrate its invalidity beyond a reasonable doubt. Bellevue v. State, 92 Wash.2d 717, 719, 600 P.2d 1268 (1979). We find the statute to be neither overly Due process is the linchpin of both overbreadth and vagueness. One involves substantive due process; the other--vagueness--implicates procedural due process. Blondheim v. State, 84 Wash.2d 874, 878, 529 P.2d 1096 (1975).

broad nor vague.

On the issue of overbreadth, i.e., substantive due process, does the statute fail? Is it so broadly drawn that it may prohibit constitutionally protected activity as well as unprotected behavior? State v. Yancy, 92 Wash.2d 153, 157, 594 P.2d 1342 (1979).

At best, plaintiffs' analysis of this issue is imprecise and without relevant authority. There is no discussion of the standard of scrutiny by which we should judge the overbreadth issue. Even by a strict standard we find sufficient societal and, therefore, governmental interest to justify this statute. Societal interest in dealing with the continuing concerns about alcohol abuse and its concomitant consequences are a matter of common and judicial knowledge. Consistent with that interest, the protective custody provisions of RCW 70.96A.120 are narrowly drawn so as to reach only certain individuals incapacitated by alcohol and in need of treatment--that is, persons whose intoxicated condition renders them dangerous to themselves or others. Under these circumstances, the State's interest is sufficiently compelling to outweigh the temporary deprivation of liberty occasioned by application of the statute.

Plaintiffs rely heavily upon Opinion of the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court Given Under the Provisions of Section 3 of Article VI of the Constitution, 339 A.2d 510 (Me. Sup. Ct. 1975). To understand the case is to distinguish it. The court there considered the constitutionality of protective custody provisions of a proposed alcoholism treatment act which would have permitted detention of those persons who either: (1) appeared to be incapacitated by alcohol, or (2) were disorderly as a result of the use of alcohol, or (3) were likely to cause or incur harm to themselves or others because of alcohol use. Opinion of the Justices, at 517-18. The court found that the first category failed to distinguish between "private" intoxication and The issue of vagueness raises the procedural due process requirements of fair notice to citizens and clear standards to prevent arbitrary enforcement of laws. State v. Maciolek, 101 Wash.2d 259, 264, 676 P.2d 996 (1984). Here, the statute is rather specific and contains reasonably clear guidelines. A person must appear to be "incapacitated by alcohol". A definition is provided with two components: judgment so impaired by alcohol that a decision as to the need for treatment is incapable of being made AND dangerousness--to himself, others, or property. In addition, the person must be in a public place OR have threatened, attempted or inflicted physical harm on another.

"public" intoxication. The court also found that under the second and third categories, influence to a minor degree could trigger custody. The court correctly held the proposed statute to be overly broad. It has no application to our statute.

The arguments in plaintiffs' brief ignore these rather specific criteria. They conclude that the statute is extremely vague and can lead...

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