-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.