Moore was charged with Public Intoxication, a class B misdemeanor.
An Indiana Supreme Court decision in 1966, Miles v. State, 216 N.E.2d 847 (Ind. 1966), declared that a person parked alongside a highway was in a public place for the purposes of the public intoxication statute. Moore's argument was that considering the inside of a car to be a public place was against what the legislature intended when it passed the public intoxication law. She also argued that it was against the public policy of encouraging sober drivers to drive those who are too intoxicated to get behind a wheel.
|State Senator R. Michael Young|
State Senator R. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) authored Senate Bill 156 last session that would have scrapped public intoxication as a stand-alone criminal offense. Sen. Young, like a lot of people, doesn't believe simply being intoxicated in a public place should be a crime subjecting someone to arrest. He believes that rather the issue should be whether they are doing something else objectionable, such as disturbing the peace or urinating in public.
Not surprisingly most police officers and prosecutors love the P.l. charge. Their response is always that it is a "crime fighting tool." They alwasy assure the public that if the discretion is given to them, in this case to arrest someone for simply being intoxicated in public, they won't abuse the discretion, that it will only be used in cases where the person is acting improperly.
Senator Young's bill passed the Senate 33-17 last session before ultimately dying because it wasn't heard in the House committee. The legislature needs to take the bill up again next session. At the very least the General Assembly needs to pass a law to clarify that the legislature never intended that a vehicle be considered a public place for the public intoxication law. People who are inebriated for acting responsibly by having a designated driver take them home.
UPDATE: Interestingly in a press release the Indiana State Police is urging people to use a designated driver this July 4th weekend if they have been drinking.
The situation creates an interesting dynamic. Police officers generally prefer more discretion to arrest people. On the other hand, they have for years been telling people to use a designated driver if they are intoxicated. But since the Miles decision in 1966, confirmed again on Tuesday, police officers are telling those people to to commit a crime, i.e. public intoxication, when those intoxicated people ride home with a designated driver.