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'Rafting Gone Wild:' 23 Arrests after Drunken River Brawl

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on July 17, 2012 4:55 PM

'Rafting Gone Wild,' the second annual event on the American River in California, started in sunshine but ended in a brawl. Drunken rafters started fighting in the late afternoon and multiple incidents led to arrests.

Several years ago, Sacramento County banned alcohol on the American River during major holidays including Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Revelers took the ban in stride, planning a new 'holiday' to celebrate drinking on the river according to The Sacramento Bee.

By the end of the day 23 people had been arrested, but there should have been many more, police said.

People were hitting each other paddles and throwing rocks at fire and rescue boats reports The Sacramento Bee. By the evening law enforcement officials were constantly dealing with fights along the river.

Although there were only 23 arrests on the books for Saturday, deputies say many people were brought to the jail, but had to be turned away by medical staff during intake because they had been tased or were too intoxicated, Fox40.com reports.

Perhaps the revelers are a nicer bunch when sober but that won't help them in court.

Crimes like assault and battery require that the person's actions were intentional as in: the rafter intended to hit someone with a paddle. Alcohol may lead to poor decision making, but voluntary intoxication isn't a defense to intent even if you don't remember what you did.

In most states, the intent to drink alcohol is enough to prove the 'intent' piece of assault or battery when drunkenness leads to violence. By consuming a large amount of alcohol, it's assumed the intoxicated person knew it could lead to bad behavior.

The number of incidents on the river this year and last have led some public officials to consider extending the alcohol ban on the American River. It may become a seasonal ban or  target events that draw large crowds.

Part of the issue is public safety but another concern is the use of public resources according to The Modesto Bee.

This year's 'Rafting Gone Wild' required about 60 law enforcement and emergency services personnel to contain the drunken brawls and handle arrests.

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