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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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