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Judges disagree on public intox conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a woman's conviction of public intoxication, but the judge dissenting in the case believed the majority reweighed the credibility of the witnesses and their testimony to reach their decision.

In Melissa Christian v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0803-CR-272, Court of Appeals Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Elaine Brown reversed Melissa Christian's conviction of public intoxication, citing insufficient evidence. Police found Christian attempting to unlock a car with the wrong key in the driveway of her friend's house.

Christian only appealed the determination that she was located in a public place when arrested. The state described the driveway as "an area that people in the neighborhood area use to park" but the evidence presented at trial doesn't support the claims, wrote Judge Brown. The state presented no evidence the parking area was used by the public in general rather than just by the residents nearby.

Citing previous caselaw on the reversal of public intoxication convictions, the majority reversed Christian's conviction for insufficient evidence.

Judge Paul Mathias dissented, writing that the appellate court's role is not to reweigh the credibility of the witnesses and their testimony. Christian argued the area she was at was a driveway but police testified it wasn't a driveway, but more of a parking area off the street where people can pull in and park perpendicular to the flow of traffic.

In the cases the majority cited, the defendants were asleep in a vehicle in either a private driveway or private lane, but in this case, Christian was standing outside of her vehicle in a parking area accessible to the neighboring public, the judge wrote.

Judge Mathias also wrote that if the majority's definition of a public place becomes law, it would be difficult to distinguish why an apartment complex parking lot or common parking area of a condominium complex would be a "public place," which can't be the intent of the law.

"Perhaps we might have made a different arresting decision than Officer Siefker, or come to a different conclusion than Judge Collins; perhaps not. But that is not our standard of review. Our constitutional role is to determine whether a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Christian was guilty of public intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt," he wrote. "We are not permitted to reweigh the evidence or substitute our judgment for that of Officer Siefker or the trier of fact, Judge Collins."

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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