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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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