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Change in state statute gets public intoxication conviction overturned

August 15, 2013

Although the evidence showed the man was intoxicated in public, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned his conviction because he was not a threat to public safety.

 The Court of Appeals pointed to Indiana Code 7.1-5-1-3(a) which was amended to define the elements of a Class B misdemeanor public intoxication. Namely, the drunken individual must be either endangering his or her own life or the life of another person; or breaching or about to breach the peace; or harassing, annoying or alarming another person.

In Danny Stephens v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1301-CR-18, the COA reversed the trial court, finding the evidence was insufficient to support Stephens’ conviction for public intoxication since he was not a posing a danger, nor was he being loud or harassing others.  

 “Notably, the General Assembly added these elements to the public intoxication statute in 2012, making it no longer a crime simply to be intoxicated in public,” Judge Terry Crone wrote. “The addition of these elements promotes public policy encouraging inebriated persons to avoid creating dangerous situations by walking, catching a cab, or riding home with a designated driver rather than driving while intoxicated. Because the amendment became effective July 2012, we have little precedent concerning the new language.”

Stephens was arrested for public intoxication after he called Indianapolis Metropolitan Police and asked them to take him to jail. He did not want to return to his home for fear his niece’s boyfriend would harm him.

The Court of Appeals found that Stephens was asking for help when he walked to a public place, called police and told them he was drunk. While he was drunk in a public parking lot, he did not violate the statute by breaching the peace.



 

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