Earlier this month we told you about police in Northern Virginia bursting into bars and arresting patrons for the crime of being tipsy. Under fire from citizens and legislators, authorities are now trying to defend their tactics — and their story reconfirms our worst fears.

It will probably surprise you to learn that “you can’t be drunk in a bar.” So says Fairfax County (VA) Police Chief J. Thomas Manger. According to police, public intoxication is an offense worthy of arrest, and a tavern is a public place.

Here’s The Washington Post with one woman’s story: “As the designated driver in her dinner party, Pat Habib was careful to consume no more than one alcoholic drink and follow it up with two sodas. So she was shocked when a police officer singled her out of the crowd at Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern in Herndon and asked her to step outside to prove her sobriety.”

That’s right. The police forced her to prove she was sober — in a bar. Among the tactics they used to tell who might be drunk: “frequent trips to the bathroom.” You’d think the police would have something better to do than play hall monitor.

The Fairfax County Council agrees that “the police overstepped their bounds and overreacted.” But the county constables insist that their policy of harassing social drinkers is “proactive,” and claim to be targeting “the root causes of alcohol-related deaths.”

In other words, they’re subjecting people to arrest for what they might do. Memo to the powers that be: the Department of Precrime in the Tom Cruise film Minority Report was supposed to be fictional.