Lack of endangerment reverses public intoxication conviction

A man’s public intoxication conviction has been reversed after he successfully argued to the Indiana Court of Appeals that his life was not endangered by being drunk next to an Indianapolis street.

After police responded to an anonymous 911 call reporting a man staggering on the sidewalk, Danish Pulido was found doing just that. An officer noted Pulido stopped when ordered to, but that he was struggling to maintain his balance while standing straight and was swaying.

When asked if he was okay, where he was headed and where he lived, Pulido told police “he did not know any of those things,” according to the record. He also told the officer that he didn’t know of anyone who could come pick him up because he was “so drunk right now.”

Pulido was then arrested and charged with Class B misdemeanor public intoxication, alleged to have “endangered his life.” When the officer testified at trial that she had been dispatched by the anonymous 911 call, Pulido raised a hearsay objection but was overruled. During closing arguments, Pulido again argued that the 911 call could not be used as substantive evidence, and the trial court sustained his second objection. Specifically, Pulido pointed out that there was no evidence he was ever in any danger of being hit by a vehicle or hurting himself, and that his act of staggering on the sidewalk was not enough to prove endangerment.

Regardless, the Marion Superior Court found Pulido guilty as charged and concluded that because he was staggering next to a city street, the endangerment obligation was satisfied.

The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed in Danish Pulido v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-00834, finding that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pulido endangered his own life as required by the public intoxication statute.

Noting Pulido’s reliance on Sesay v. State, 5 N.E.3d 478 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014) and Davis v. State, 13 N.E.3d 500 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), the appellate court pointed out that the public intoxication statute neither defines the term “endangers the person’s life” nor the general term of endangerment.

“It is undisputed that Pulido was intoxicated in a public place. The State, however, did not present any evidence of Pulido’s past or present conduct or action that endangered his life,” Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote. “We reject the State’s argument that the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction because Pulido’s act of being intoxicated while on the sidewalk ‘created a dangerous situation.’

“The statute required that the State prove that Pulido ‘endanger[ed] [his] life[.]’ We also reject the State’s suggestion that we should affirm Pulido’s public intoxication conviction based on Officer (Danielle) Lewis’ attempt to protect Pulido from any future, potential harm of walking in the street and getting struck by a car,” the panel continued. “The State’s argument is ‘merely speculative, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.’”

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