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Supreme Court takes public intoxication case

January 17, 2011

The Indiana Supreme Court will rule 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. This issue divided the Indiana Court of Appeals, which reversed Brenda Moore’s conviction.

The justices accepted the case, Brenda Moore v. State of Indiana, No. 49S04-1101-CR-24. The majority on the Court of Appeals used Miles v. State, 247 Ind. 423, 425 216 N.E.2d 847, 849 (1966) to support their decision. Moore’s friend was driving Moore’s car because he needed to go somewhere and Moore was too drunk to drive. He was driving with Moore in the front seat. Police pulled over the car for a non-working license plate light. The friend didn’t have a valid license and Moore admitted she couldn’t drive because she was drunk.

The majority found the facts of the instant case to be different from Miles, in which a truck diver was slumped over his steering wheel in his running tractor-trailer cab parked on the side of a highway. That driver was considered to be drunk in public for purposes of the statute.

Judge Margret Robb also wrote that the purpose of the statute is to prevent intoxicated people from threatening the safety of others and under the circumstances of this case, Moore wasn’t intoxicated in a public place within the meaning of Indiana Code Section 7.1-5-1-3. Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented, believing it’s up to legislature to address this issue.

The justices denied transfer to 16 cases for the week ending Jan. 14, including Lawane Chaney, et al. v. Clarian Health Partners, Inc., No. 49A05-0905-CV-263. In that not-for-publication decision, Ronald Weldy, the former counsel for Lawane Chaney, appealed the sanctions imposed against him under Indiana Trial Rule 37 as purported class counsel. The Court of Appeals affirmed there was a legal basis for the sanction imposed.

According to the docket, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Steven David would also consider a petition for damages, including attorney fees, pursuant to Appellate Rule 66(E).

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