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Public intoxication conviction tossed for lack of proof of endangerment

March 24, 2014

A man convicted of public intoxication after a police officer found him near the site where his car had come to a stop between the road and a drainage ditch was improperly convicted, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Monday.

David Sesay was convicted of Class B misdemeanor public intoxication in Marion Superior Court, but an appeals panel reversed, concluding that the state “failed to prove Sesay engaged in any conduct beyond intoxication that endangered his life.”

A little more than a year ago, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer arrested Sesay after being dispatched to the southwest side of the city. The officer found Sesay shortly after 3 a.m. standing near the vehicle a few feet out of the roadway, covered in mud with alcohol on his breath and red or glassy bloodshot eyes. Sesay said his girlfriend had been driving the car, and she arrived on the scene a few minutes later.

But Sesay said the state failed to meet its burden that he endangered himself as is required under I.C. 7.1-5-1-3(a). The P.I. statute requires that a person endanger his or another person’s life; breaches the peace or is in imminent danger of breaching the peace; or harasses, annoys or alarms another person.

Sesay was convicted after a bench trial before Judge Linda Brown in which the officer was the sole witness.  Brown noted Sesay was staggering near a road, had vomited on himself and needed the officer’s assistance to be seated. “And so I think it can be inferred that he was endangering his life,” Brown said.

“Although there is no question that Sesay was in a public place and that he was intoxicated, the State failed to prove that he engaged in any additional conduct that endangered his life,” Judge Margret Rob wrote for the majority  joined by Judge Patricia Riley in David Sesay v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1305-CR-434. “Sesay’s conviction is, therefore, reversed.”

Judge Cale Bradford concurred with a separate opinion. He would reverse, but he wrote “to clarify that while I believe that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to show that Sesay was endangered at the time of his arrest, I believe that Indiana Code section 7.1-5-1-3 requires a showing that the endangerment resulted from an affirmative act by Sesay and, in the instant matter, the evidence presented below was insufficient to make such a showing.”

 

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