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Indiana Public Intoxication Law Requires that Alarming Behavior Occurred in a Public Place

In a case of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that to convict a person of public intoxication, the person must have engaged in alarming behavior while in a public place. In this case, a woman observed an unknown man twice cross her yard and enter her neighbor’s yard and garage. The woman was clearly alarmed by the man’s behavior and called the police to report a suspected burglary, gave a description of the man, and stated that the man had proceeded south along a public sidewalk.

Officers responded and stopped the defendant and immediately placed him in handcuffs. During a pat-down search, officers found a baggie of marijuana and a can of beer. Police also observed several signs of intoxication, including that the defendant’s eyes were glassy and blood shot, he smelled of alcohol, he swayed while walking and standing, and his speech was slow and slurred. The State charged the defendant with Possession of Marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor, and Public Intoxication, a Class B misdemeanor. He was convicted on both counts at a bench trial.

The defendant appealed his conviction for public intoxication, arguing that although he was clearly intoxicated while in a public place, his alarming behavior occurred on private property. The State argued that the defendant had alarmed the woman when he crossed her yard and that she remained alarmed when he entered onto a public sidewalk. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s conviction for Public Intoxication holding that the public intoxication statute requires that the alarming behavior must occur while the defendant is in a public place. The Court further found that the evidence did not indicate that the defendant put himself in danger by walking down a public sidewalk, because the officers did not notice he was intoxicated until after they stopped him and placed him in handcuffs. Therefore, the defendant did not harass or alarm another person or create a danger while in a public place.

Prior to July 1, 2012, it was a crime to be intoxicated in a public place. However, Indiana amended its public intoxication law to encourage intoxicated persons to avoid driving and walk home or take a cab. However, many people are still arrested on public intoxication charges when walking home from bars. Regardless of how intoxicated a person is, they are not guilty of a crime unless they commit one of the new public intoxication law behavior criteria, while they are in a public place.

If you are arrested for public intoxication, call Gibson Law Office for a free initial consultation. With offices in Tippecanoe County and Allen County, our criminal defense attorneys aggressively defend public intoxication charges in all regions of Indiana.