Friday, December 30, 2011

Marion County Law Enforcement Partnership Encourages Those Celebrating on New Year's Eve to Violate State's Public Intoxication Law

From the Indianapolis Star:
State's agency's logo encourages people
to violate public intoxication law
Local police will conduct extra patrols and sobriety checkpoints across Indianapolis from 11 p.m. Saturday through 5 a.m. Sunday as part of an effort to get impaired motorists off the roads. The Downtown Indianapolis area and other places near popular drinking spots will be the focus of the effort.
The effort, called "DUI: Taskforce Indiana," is a project of the Marion County Traffic Safety Partnership.
Oficers from five agencies are involved: the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Cumberland Police Department, Speedway Police Department, Lawrence Police Department and the Indiana State Police. 
A grant from the Governor's Council on Impaired and Dangerous Driving funds the effort. Officials with the partnership advised anyone considering drinking alcohol to pre-arrange transportation options that don't involve getting behind the wheel -- such as riding with trusted designated drivers or hiring cab drivers.
Here's the thing.  Even if you use a designated driver or ride in a cab, under the current interpretation of our law you are in a "public place" and can be convicted of public intoxication.
Here's part of what I wrote on my blog after the Supreme Court ruled on that issue last summer:
On Tuesday, the Indiana Supreme Court handed down Brenda Moore v. State of Indiana. A recitation of the facts are in order:
[Brenda Moore] had consumed two tall cans of beer at her sister's house on the evening of December 5, 2008. A friend of [Moore's] brother asked for a ride to visit a friend. [Moore] explained to him that she could not drive because she had been drinking but he could drive her car if he had a license. The brother's friend then drove the [Moore's] car with [Moore] riding as a front seat passenger. When an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer pulled over the car because the license plate was not working, the officer determined that the driver did not have a valid driver's license and that [Moore] could not operate the vehicle because she was intoxicated. The car was stopped on a public roadway, East 13th Street in Indianapolis. The officer observed that [Moore] had red, glassy, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech; she needed to lean against the car for balance; and she admitted that she had been drinking that night. She admitted, "I couldn't walk. So I couldn't have driven."
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.
Senator Michael Young
(R- Indianapolis)
Here's what I wrote in a followup article:
...Next year, when Senator Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) reintroduces his bill to reform Indiana's public intoxication law, he will be met with fierce resistance from law enforcement officials and prosecutors who will plead that the legislature not limit their "law enforcement tools" and who will assure the legislators they will exercise "discretion" wisely in using those tools. 
If they will exercise their discretion reasonably, why did the IMPD officer use his "discretion" to not arrest Brenda Moore? Why did the Carl Brizzi's Marion County Prosecutor's Office exercise the "discretion" to not prosecute her? Here's another question, why did Attorney General Greg Zoeller appeal the decision to the Supreme Court to get the Court of Appeals decision in favor of the passenger thrown out and in the process deal a blow to successful designated driver programs all over the state, including programs run by the Indiana State Police who Zoeller represetns? Zoeller had the "discretion" to not appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Here are some other questions. Will Chief Paul Ciesielski use his "discretion" to order IMPD officers to NOT arrest passengers of designated drivers for public intoxication? Will Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry use his "discretion" to say he will not prosecute passengers of designated drivers for public intoxication? Oh, and here's a question for the organization Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD): Do you support the Brenda Moore decision?
Remember folks, this case originated out of Marion County.  IMPD, one of the law enforcement agencies involved in the partnership encouraging people to use designated drivers, did the arrest of Brenda Moore.   The Marion County Prosecutor, who is head of this partnership, is the one who did the prosecutioni of Brenda Moore.  The Attorney General represented the State on appeal in the Brenda Moore case in an effort to uphold her public intoxication conviction.  The State also encourages people to violate the law. This from the Governor's Council on Impaired and Dangerous Driving located on the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute website:
Impaired driving is no accident - nor is it a victimless crime. It's not easy to tell when you' ve had way too many, but even one too many means you shouldn't drive. Tragedies that result from alcohol-related crashes can be prevented if everyone exercised some simple precautions: 
  • Plan ahead. If you expect to consume alcohol, designate a sober driver before going out and give that person your keys;
  • If you are impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit, or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely;
These suggestions can get you arrested for public intoxication.
Senator Greg Taylor
(D- Indianapolis)
Will these same agencies in 2011 support Senate Bill 97, introduced by Senators Mike Young and Greg Taylor so that passengers of designated drivers can no longer be arrested for public intoxication?  Don't bet on it.  Law enforcement officials love the discretion to arrest people using the public intoxication law which, by the way, does not require a chemical test to verify the person is actually intoxicated.

I have other questions.  Will IMPD pledge to not arrest people for public intoxication when they are using a designated driver or taking a cab ride home after celebrating on New Year's Eve?  Will Prosecutor Curry pledge to not prosecute people for public intoxication if they are acting responsibly by using a designated driver or taking a cab?  Such a position has been taken by Hancock County officials.  Yet our Marion County law enforcement officials and prosecutor thus far have refused to make that same pledge...all the while encouraging people to violate the law.


Nicolas Martin said...

One nation, under arrest.

Kilroy said...

I'm not willing to pay the 5 bucks to look it up, but wasn't Brenda Moore charged with more than just PI, and it just happend that it was the only thing she was found guilty of? think prosecutor discretion is exactly what happened in that case.

Nicolas Martin said...

@ Kilroy
What 5 bucks? The stupid Supreme Court decision is right here:

Kilroy said...

Nicolas Martin: the 5 bucks to use Marion County's civic net to look up all the actual charges. The decision just discusses the PI charge, not a complete picture of everything that occurred.

Kilroy said...

And the Supreme Court decision was spot on. The followed the statute as written by the legislature. Is everyone complaining because they weren't "activist judges" making their own laws.

I spent three years as a deputy prosecutor and never entered a single conviction for PI for a passenger. So I agree it isn't much a crime and one that shouldn't be prosecuted in most cases, but court followed the law as written, that is all.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I don't know if she was charged with anything else. That though is completely irrelevant. The case dealt with whether someone could be charged for public intoxication based on the notion that being inside a vehicle on a public road is a public place. The court said yes.

Kilroy, I couldn't disagree more. The PI statute says nothing about making the inside of a vehicle a public place. That is totally a creation of the court, not the legislature. Granted you can say the legislature should have came in and corrected the court by what they meant in an earlier decision, but the fact they didn't make it a priority doesn't change the fact the notion that the inside of a car is a public place is completely a judicial creation, not at all something that is in the statute.

The bottom line in judicial interpretation is to carry out the intent intent of the legislature in that interpretation. Do you seriously believe the legislature intended people to be arrested for public intoxication when they're passengers in a car or riding in a taxicab. Of course not.

The Court's decision is flat out wrong because arresting someone for public intoxication for being a passenger in a car is obviously not what the legislature intended.

M Theory said...

So if I go to a party down the street in my neighborhood and drink champagne and WALK home, I could get arrested?


Nicolas Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicolas Martin said...

Abuses of citizens are so abundant that it hardly makes sense to catalog them. At some point it becomes clear that a tyranny so pervasive oppresses the citizenry that only a social cataclysm will suffice. We have at least reached the level of tyranny that Tocqueville anticipated, if not eclipsed it. As is always the case in the earlier stages of state oppression, most citizens can be mollified with bread and circuses, so there is little rebellion while people receive their government checks and elections. When the fecaliths fly it is more likely that a majority will choose a Mussolini over a Ron Paul, and either party will supply one.

One particular thing illustrates the fall of American, and that is how "rule of law" is defined. It used to mean having clear and justly adjudicated laws that citizens could understand and trust. Now it is used to mean that citizens must obey laws, no matter how unjust.