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COA reverses public intox conviction based on potential danger

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The state’s claim that a man’s public intoxication conviction should stand because of possible danger he faced if he left an apartment complex while intoxicated was rejected by the Indiana Court of Appeals Thursday because the argument was merely speculative.

Police responded to two calls at an apartment complex indicating that Clyde Davis and another man had been fighting. After the first call, police noted Davis had been drinking, but concluded he could safely walk home. But Davis didn’t leave and the next morning, police came back after the second call and found Davis standing outside the building in a grassy common area. Police believed he was extremely intoxicated and concerned that if he tried to walk home, he could be struck by a car on the busy road. Officers arrested him and he was charged with and convicted of Class B misdemeanor public intoxication.

Davis argued that the state failed to prove he endangered the lives of himself or others for purposes of the public intoxication statute, as recently amended. The appeals judges reviewed several cases that deal with the new statute, including the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Thang v. State, to determine the common thread in these cases is past or present conduct by the defendant did or did not place life in danger.

“While the statute does not require that actual harm or injury occur, some action by the defendant constituting endangerment of the life of the defendant or another person must be shown. This is true even where an officer testifies that the defendant was a danger to himself or others,” Judge James Kirsch wrote. “Were it otherwise, citizens could be convicted for possible, future conduct. The policy behind the current public intoxication statute is to encourage intoxicated persons to avoid danger by walking or catching a ride rather than driving. Although we acknowledge that intoxicated persons may also create danger by walking in public places, that danger must have manifested itself in order for the State to obtain a conviction.”

In this case, there was no evidence Davis was in danger. The state argued that he was in danger of being struck by a car if he left the apartment complex, but that is just speculative and not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The State may not convict Davis for what would or could have happened,” Kirsch wrote in Clyde Davis v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1311-CR-938.



 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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