The Interior Of Your Car Is A Public Place

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

In Indiana, an intoxicated passenger in a car pulled over by police, is guilty of public intoxication.

Indiana code defines public intoxication as being “in a public place or a place of public resort in a state of intoxication caused by . . . use of alcohol . . . .”

In the case of Moore v. State, Brenda Moore had had a couple of beers and a sober friend needed a ride and Moore offered her car and accompanied the friend as a passenger. An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer pulled the car over because it lacked a working license plate light. The officer discovered that the driver did not have a valid driver’s license. Both the driver and Moore were arrested, and Moore was charged with public intoxication, a class B misdemeanor. Moore was found guilty at a bench trial and she appealed.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana, in a 2-1 decision, reversed the conviction. The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the conviction. Moore’s argument that her conviction “violates the spirit of the public intoxication statute, and the policy behind its enactment” did not sway the Indiana Supreme Court which wrote:

Whether conduct proscribed by a criminal law should be excused under certain circumstances on grounds of public policy is a matter for legislative evaluation and statutory revision if appropriate. The judicial function is to apply the laws as enacted by the legislature.

The Indiana Supreme Court relied on Miles v. State for its ruling. In Miles v. State a man in his tractor-trailer cab parked alongside the highway with the window rolled down was in a public place for purposes of the public intoxication statute. One distinguishing feature between Miles and Moore, is that Moore was seized for Fourth Amendment purposes, see Brendlin v. California.

In the Moore dissent, Rucker, J. is concerned by the majority’s “declaring that the inside of a closed vehicle traveling along a highway is a public place.”

The Moore case is similar to Martin v. State, a case where the police arrested an intoxicated man in his home, took him outside to a highway, and then charged him with being drunk on a public highway. The Alabama Court of Appeals ruled that for public intoxication, “a voluntary appearance is presupposed.” A person in not guilty of an offense where liability is based on involuntary conduct.

The Moore case could have serious ramifications for those considering riding in a taxi while intoxicated.

H/T: Orin Kerr.

31 thoughts on “The Interior Of Your Car Is A Public Place

  1. That government would create an entirely construct for a petty, victimless crime is unsurprising.

    What is the blood alcohol standard for public intoxication? Surely it is much higher than the required BAC for DUI. It’s not clear which standard was applied here to the passenger.

    Why can’t officers stand outside of a bar door and search everyone coming out?

  2. Welcome to the PSA — Police State of America — where any time you set foot outside your house and a police officer takes a disliking to you, he can charge you with some sort of crime, and you will inevitably be found guilty, because the “legal” system will inevitably take the cop’s word over yours.

  3. The defendant conceded that she was intoxicated in a public place. Tough to win the appeal with that admission. The holding is not about whether being intoxicated in a car constitutes being intoxicated in public, but rather that when defendant concedes she was intoxicated in a public place, defendant is guilty of being intoxicated in a public place regardless of where defendant is.

  4. The old saying was “at least we ain’t Mississippi.” As silly as Ohio is now we can say, “at least we ain’t Indiana.”

  5. DUI laws connote the encouragement to not drive drunk and thus have someone sober to drive your car home. In Indiana I would presume this is no longer true. This Indiana case and the Alabama case cited could indicate that getting intoxicated in any milieu is criminal, providing a police officer take notice. If this is the desired trend than perhaps it should be illegal for all LEO’s to be intoxicated, at all times, since they have been made the arbiters of all intoxication.

  6. How about being arrested on your own property for Public Intoxication…Check……

    How about being in a conservative city where you can purchase alcohol, drink alcohol while you drive so long as you are not legally intoxicated….then being stopping your vehicle to go chat with a female in another car….then being arrested for possession of alcohol on a public street….then being taken to the police station…you are searched…you have 40.85 on your person…you are told the fine is 40 dollars…and released…

    Seem improbable….but it has happened…..

  7. puzzling: ” Why can’t officers stand outside of a bar door and search everyone coming out?”

    Why can’t police go inside and do the same if public v private is being so broadly interpreted?

  8. Here is the Kentucky statute governing the crime of Public Intoxication:

    Title 50. KENTUCKY PENAL CODE

    Chapter 525. RIOT, DISORDERLY CONDUCT, AND RELATED OFFENSES

    Current through Chapter 106, Regular Session 2011

    § 525.100. Public intoxication

    (1) A person is guilty of public intoxication when he appears in a public place manifestly under the influence of a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance, excluding alcohol (unless the alcohol is present in combination with any of the above), not therapeutically administered, to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or unreasonably annoy persons in his vicinity.

    (2) Public intoxication is a Class B misdemeanor.

    History. Effective: July 1, 1986
    Amended 1986 Ky. Acts ch. 336, §9 , effective July 1, 1986. — Created 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, §220 , effective January 1, 1975.

    Note: Legislative Research Commission Note. Acts 1984, ch.205, § 1 attempted to change the effective date of Acts 1982, ch. 312 to July 15, 1986; however, pursuant to KRS 446.270,the effective date must be July 1, 1986.
    ===========================================================
    In my state, it is a Class B misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to 90 days in the Jefferson County jail, a fine not to exceed $ 250.00, or both, plus court costs of $ 135.00.

    These cases are usually settled for 1 day, credit time served and a small fine. However, it is a crime and cannot be expunged for 5-7 years after conviction.

  9. I failed to point out that in Kentucky we also have an offense called ” Alochol Intoxication” :

    § 222.202. Offenses of alcohol intoxication or drinking alcoholic beverages in a public place.

    ——————————————————————————–
    Archive
    Kentucky Statutes

    Title 18. PUBLIC HEALTH

    Chapter 222. KENTUCKY ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG ABUSE PREVENTION, INTERVENTION, AND TREATMENT LAW

    Current through Chapter 106, Regular Session 2011

    § 222.202. Offenses of alcohol intoxication or drinking alcoholic beverages in a public place

    (1) A person is guilty of alcohol intoxication when he appears in a public place manifestly under the influence of alcohol to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or unreasonably annoy persons in his vicinity.

    (2) A person is guilty of drinking alcoholic beverages in a public place when he drinks an alcoholic beverage in a public place, or in or upon any passenger coach, or other vehicle commonly used for the transportation of passengers, or in or about any depot, platform, or waiting room.

    History. Created 1986 Ky. Acts ch. 336, §2 , effective July 1, 1986.
    ==========================================================

    This offense is NOT A CRIME, IT IS A VIOLATION. The penalty is contained in KRS 222.990 (3) which states that the penalty for a first or second offense is “…not less than twenty-five dollars ($25).”

    The arresting/citing officer has the discretion to choose PI or AI in the charging instrument.

  10. “(2) A person is guilty of drinking alcoholic beverages in a public place when he drinks an alcoholic beverage in a public place, or in or upon any passenger coach, or other vehicle commonly used for the transportation of passengers, or in or about any depot, platform, or waiting room.”

    Frank,

    Thank you for the pertinent statutes from Kentucky. What puzzles me though is can both (I) and (2) be interpreted to mean that a “public place” could be a Restaurant or Bar? In many venues Restaurants and Bars have
    “sidewalk” tables, where people can drink definitely in public. Is the LEO then the judge of who to accost, since many are openly drinking?

  11. As a long-tine Designated Driver, should I now be worried about becoming an accomplice and an abetter to such a heinous crime? This is nuts.

  12. Mike Spindell: I would submit that drinking in a bar or restaurant in their outside “public” areas IS a violation of the statute. The reality is that law enforcement usually exercise their discretion and do not cite/arrest for that infraction only. The charge is usually in connection with another, like disorderly conduct, fighting in a bar (assault 4), etc.

    It

  13. How will this affect the millions of teenagers having sex in cars?

    Tiger Beat (or whatever the modern equivalent is) wants to know.

  14. Gene,

    Would that involve *pubic* areas v. public places..

    I have read numerous times in important documents where people have accidently used pubic for public.

  15. FFLEO,
    :) I can see where that adds further confusion to the issue. Especially since the sex in cars certainly involves pubic places even though the public places is debatable. And let’s not forget all the trouble those Roman got into fighting the Pubic Wars. Hopefully we can resolve this issue without getting Carthage involved.

  16. How long before a police officer or prosecutor uses this ruling to defend a warrant less, consent less, probable cause less search of a defendant’s car?

  17. And here we have all of the intellectuals gathered. I must be still tripping from acid. The damn driver did not have a valid license, the passenger was drunk. What is the officer supposed to do, give the keys to a drunk? He did the only right thing. Jesus H Christ, you people whine about shit you have no control over. Were you there? Cry Baby’s.

  18. FFLEO

    i remember seeing a story about four people being injured in Iraq by a roadside IUD.

    meme
    drink some milk

  19. Why is 2 2 1925 a good year? Was it not the year of the year of the “Law of Property Act?” Conveyancing of Real Property in England and Wales? What is your point Maggot?

  20. Some exceptions may apply:
    – if the car is a limo
    – if the passenger is an employee of the prison state
    – if the judge is in a good mood the day you appear before him/her

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