Tuesday, February 28, 2012

House Passes Bill Narrowing Public Intoxication Offense

For years Indiana's public intoxication charge has given law enforcement officials a blank check to the arrest anyone who had consumed alcohol and was in a public place, which is basically anyplace except a residence.  The law did not even require a blood alcohol content threshhold for public intoxication.  The testimony of a police officer that the was in a public place and appeared to be intoxicated was enough for a conviction.
Sen. Michael Young
To make matters worse, last year the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the public intoxication conviction of a passenger who did the responsible thing and used a sober designated driver.  Yep, you heard right, the courts have said you can still be arrested for public intoxication even if you use a designated driver.  In fact, you can be arrested for public intoxication if you call a cab to take you home from the bar. 

Sen. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) saw the problem with the law and he set out to fix it.  After an unsuccessful attempt last year, Sen. Young re-introduced a bill changing the public intoxication law to require some other bad conduct, besides simply having consumed alcohol.  The bill cleared the House today 95-0 and is on its way back to the Senate for final approval of the House changges.

The bill still gives law enforcement officials a lot of discretion.  Under the most recent version of the bill, a public intoxication charge requires proof that someone is intoxicated and is endanger someone's life, breaching the peace or threatening to, or harassing, annoying or alarming another person.  While that still gives law enforcement officials far too much discretion, it is an improvement over the current state of the law.

Sen. Young is also the author of the Barnes bill, legislation to restore the right of homeowners to resist unlawful police entries.  A few years ago, Sen. Young authored a bill tying traffic ticket fines to a person's driving history, stopping the practice of the Marion County Traffic Court regularly fining people $400 to $500 if they choose to exercise their right to a jury trial.

Sen. Young has proved himself a superb legislator, someone who is willing to take up causes that other legislators for years have ignored.   I don't know of any other legislator who is more deserving of re-election.


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

They should have restored the right to open carry booze. It presented no problem during the Super Bowl. Perhaps they think foreigners hold their liquor better than natives do.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I don't think there's any law against carry booze around. That was just a legal myth perpetrated by bars that didn't want you to carry their alcohol off premises.

Kilroy said...

Neither OWI nor Public Intoxication have a blood alcohol content threshhold. I think the new legislation basically codifies what officers already do, the problem now will be what to do with the drunk passenger after driver is arrested? They can't drive, officers aren't supposed to just give rides, taxis aren't exactly available in most of Indiana. Leave by side of the road or call it criminal mischief and take to jail to sober up before releasing without filing charges seems the likely solution.

Paul K. Ogden said...


While that's what most officers due already, there is a danger in giving them carte blanche to arrest anyone in public who has been drinking even though they're not doing anything to warrant an arrest. It turns us into a police state.

Kilroy said...

Police state? Think that is a little cliche and over reaching. But I guess it depends on whether you start with the premise that most officers are bad and looking for power or whether most officers are good and just trying to do their job and keep the public safe. Having prosecuted several hundred PIs, I can't remember seeing any that were just a person minding their own business in public while intoxicated.

Do you have a solution for the drunk passenger on the side of the road scenario?

RhondaLeeBaby69 said...

For once, I agree with you, Paul. This is a sorely needed revision. Under the current law, anyone who walks out of an establishment that serves alcohol (whether or not they have had a drink) can be arrested for public intox.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Kilroy, I don't have a problem with a drunk passenger on the side of the road. It's when they're doing something bad besides being drunk I have a problem with.

I simply do not agree with the notion that you give police officers complete discretion and hope they don't abuse it. Yeah, most of the time they won't but there are people who will. You don't have to go any further than the passenger of the designated driver they prosecuted for PI that went to the INSCT.