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Man arrested for public intox at gas station has conviction reversed

October 31, 2013

Based on the language of the recently amended statute defining public intoxication, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a man’s conviction due to lack of evidence that he endangered his life or the life of someone else.

When police officer Michael Agresta came out of the restroom at a gas station while on patrol, he was notified by the cashier that customer Tin Thang was possibly intoxicated. Thang was unsteady, smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes. He also saw a car in the parking lot that wasn’t there before and keys in Thang’s hands. The car belonged to Thang.

Thang was charged with and convicted of Class B misdemeanor public intoxication at a bench trial.

In Tin Thang v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1303-CR-110, Judge Terry Crone noted that the recent timing of the amendment “leaves us with little precedent concerning the new language.” The statute says it is a Class B misdemeanor for someone to be in a public place in a state of intoxication if the person: endangers his or her own life; endangers the life of another person; breaches the peace or is in imminent danger of breaching the peace; or harasses, annoys or alarms another person.

The judges agreed with Thang that he did not “alarm” the cashier for purposes of the statute. The cashier, who did not testify at trial, simply alerted Agresta that Thang may be intoxicated. There’s also insufficient evidence to support that Thang endangered himself or others by driving to the gas station while intoxicated. Again, the cashier did not testify at trial and Agresta, the only person who did testify, did not see Thang drive.
 

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