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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. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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