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Court splits on public intoxication conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals split today on whether a woman’s conviction of Class B misdemeanor public intoxication should be reversed because she wasn’t in a public place within the meaning of Indiana Code at the time police stopped her car.

Brenda Moore had been drinking at her sister’s house. A friend wanted a ride, but Moore said she was unable to drive but if the friend had a valid license, he could drive her car. Moore rode with him in the passenger seat and fell asleep when police pulled the car over for a non-working license plate light. The friend didn’t have a valid license and Moore admitted she was too intoxicated to drive the car. She was arrested and charged with public intoxication and later convicted.

The issue that split the appellate court in Brenda Moore v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1001-CR-46, was whether there was sufficient evidence to support Moore’s conviction as defined in Indiana Code Section 7.1-5-1-3, which defines public intoxication as “being in a public place or a place of public resort in a state of intoxication caused by … use of alcohol.”

The judges relied on Miles v. State, 247 Ind. 423, 425 216 N.E.2d 847, 849 (1966), in which the Indiana Supreme Court held a man who was slumped over his steering wheel in his running tractor-trailer cab parked on the side of the highway was in a public place for purposes of the public intoxication statute.

The majority found the differences between Miles and the instant case to be significant and didn’t believe Miles compels the result that Moore was in a public place. The majority of cases following Miles have had intoxicated people in parked or stopped cars that were in places accessible to the public, wrote Judge Margret Robb.

“Here, Moore’s vehicle was being driven upon a public road by a sober driver and was causing no danger or impediment to the traveling public. The facts of this case are sufficiently different from the facts of previous cases that we believe neither Miles nor the legislature’s lack of action in the wake thereof are binding upon us,” she wrote.

Judge Robb also wrote that the purpose of the statute is to prevent intoxicated people from bothering or threatening the safety of others and that objective wouldn’t be frustrated by excluding the circumstances of this case from the definition public intoxication. She noted there are times when someone riding in a car could be charged with public intoxication, but under the circumstances of the case, Moore wasn’t intoxicated in a public place within the meaning of the statute.

In her dissent, Judge Nancy Vaidik said as much as she may disagree with criminalizing riding as a passenger in a private vehicle on a public road in a state of intoxication, that it’s up to the legislature to address this.

“Given Miles and the legislature’s lack of response to it, I believe that unless and until our legislature makes changes to Indiana Code section 7.1-5-1-3, Moore was in a public place. I therefore would affirm her conviction for public intoxication,” she wrote.





 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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