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Argumentative passenger’s public intoxication conviction reversed

August 11, 2014

A passenger in a car that a police officer stopped after seeing an arm and object hanging out of the car window, followed by the sound of shattering glass, was improperly convicted of public intoxication, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The PI statute was revised in 2012 to require conduct elements along with intoxication for a conviction. The appeals court found former Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown erred in convicting Colton Milam of the Class B misdemeanor after a bench trial.

Milam argued with an officer and another passenger after acknowledging to the officer that he and another passenger had been drinking. Milam contended a bottle had been thrown from another vehicle, according to the record, and the officer said Milam profanely told his fellow passenger to tell the truth.

The officer later described Milam as loud, boisterous and uncooperative. He had removed Milam from the car and handcuffed him, contending the passenger was interfering with his investigation.

“Milam concedes that he was intoxicated in a public place. We believe, however, that reversing Milam’s conviction in this case is consistent with the purpose and spirit of the current public intoxication statute,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel in Colton Milam v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1312-CR-998.
 
“Prior to Milam’s arrest there is no evidence to indicate that Milam endangered his life or the life of another or disturbed the peace. The trial court declined to determine who threw the bottle from the window and found that it was immaterial to the decision,” Barnes wrote.

“Prosecuting and convicting Milam for being intoxicated, in a pulled-over car, while arguing with (the other passenger and officer) does not reach the level of disturbing the peace, harassment, annoyance, or alarm, and therefore does not meet the requirements of the public intoxication statute,” the panel concluded.
 

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