Public Intoxication in Indiana – Laws & Defenses

PUBLIC INTOXICATION IN INDIANA 

When arrested for public intoxication, the first thing many people want to know is what are the laws for public intoxication in Indiana?  The second question is usually “Can I go to jail for public intoxication in Indiana?”

In this article, we are going to answer those questions and examine the laws surrounding a charge of public intoxication in Indiana.  We are going to examine:

  1. Can you drink in public in Indiana?;
  2. The public intoxication Indiana code / Statute;
  3. What happens after an arrest for public intoxication in Indiana?;
  4. Indiana cases where there was sufficient evidence, and Indiana cases where there was insufficient evidence, to support a public intoxication conviction in Indiana;
  5. The penalties and potential jail time for public intoxication; and
  6. Potential defenses to public intoxication in Indiana.

While we are going to examine the law and some defenses to public intoxication in Indiana, this article is meant to be an overview of the law for public intoxication in Indiana.  It is NOT a substitute for the advice of an experienced attorney.

If you are facing public intoxication charges in Indianapolis, Marion County, Noblesville, Hamilton County, or a surrounding central Indiana county, we recommend you speak to an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney about the Indiana public intoxication laws and the specifics of your case.

Public intoxication in Indiana is a criminal charge, not an infraction, so public intoxication charges are nothing to scoff at.  A conviction for public intoxication in Indiana will stay on your record for life, unless you expunge it.  That can be embarrassing or may stop you from getting a particular job you may want.  And, at the earliest, you cannot expunge it for five years after the date of your conviction.

If you have been convicted of public intoxication, or other crime, and are interested in expunging your criminal record, visit our Free Indiana Expungement Evaluator to see if you qualify for an expungement in Indiana.

Every criminal case is different based on the specific facts of each case; therefore, it is important you speak to an Indiana Criminal Defense Lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case.

Can you drink alcohol in public in Indiana?

 Yes.  Indiana does not have a law prohibiting the open carrying of alcohol in public places.

However, Indiana does have an open container law which prohibits both drivers and passengers from having open containers in vehicles while the car is in operation.

Indiana Public Intoxication Law

While you can carry and drink alcohol in public places in Indiana, public intoxication in Indiana is a crime in certain circumstances.  The Indiana Public Intoxication Law, Indiana Code 7.1-5-1-3 states:

(a)  Subject to section 6.5 [IC 7.1-5-1-6.5] of this chapter, it is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to be in a public place or a place of public resort in a state of intoxication caused by the person’s use of alcohol or a controlled substance (as defined in IC 35-48-1-9), if the person:

     (1) endangers the person’s life;

     (2) endangers the life of another person;

     (3) breaches the peace or is in imminent danger of breaching the peace; or

    (4) harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.

(b)  A person may not initiate or maintain an action against a law enforcement officer based on the officer’s failure to enforce this section.

Therefore, according to Indiana law, public intoxication in Indiana is not illegal unless a person’s public intoxication endangers that person’s life, someone else’s life, breaches the peace or will breach the peace, harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.

And it seems that the section b gives a lot of discretion to the police officer on whether or not to arrest the person for public intoxication in Indiana, since the statute strictly prohibits suits against law enforcement for failure to enforce the public intoxication law.

Also, Indiana Code 7.1-5-1-6, prohibits public intoxication on a common carrier (bus or train), or in or about a depot, station, airport, ticket office, waiting room or platform.

 What happens after an arrest for public intoxication in Indiana?

 Do you go to jail after being arrested for public intoxication?  Well, that is up to the arresting officer.

Indiana Code 12-23-15-1, titled “Procedures available following arrest” states:

A police officer or peace officer making an arrest for public intoxication may do the following:

(1) If an individual is unmanageable or is causing damage to the individual or others, take the individual into custody for criminal processing in the city lock-up or county jail.

 (2) If an individual is manageable and not causing damage to the individual or others, issue a citation and do either of the following:

     (A) If within reasonable proximity, take the individual to any of the following:

          (i) The individual’s home.

          (ii) The home of a relative of the individual.

          (iii) A responsible person who is competent and willing to provide care, assistance, and treatment.

     (B) Take the individual to an approved public or private treatment facility or to the city lock-up or county jail if no facility is available.

It is important to note that the statute says “MAY do the following”, not “SHALL do the following”.  “May” is an optional word under Indiana law but “shall” is mandatory.  So even if you are not being “unmanageable”, the officer can still take you to jail.

If you are issued a citation, the citation will state the time and place for a trial.  If you are issued a citation, it does not mean that you will not be charged with a crime.  It just means that instead of arresting you for the crime, you are given a notice to appear in court instead.

But now let’s look at some cases regarding public intoxication in Indiana to see how the law plays out in Indiana courts.

CASES REGARDING PUBLIC INTOXICATION IN INDIANA

 Intoxication

Often, defendants charged with public intoxication will argue that they were not intoxicated.  Here are some Indiana cases related to the intoxication element of the crime:

In Labarr v. State, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that Defendant’s conviction for public intoxication was proper because the evidence was sufficient to support a reasonable inference he was intoxicated in a public place while endangering his own life.  In part, he was unconscious on the floor of a minivan, not wearing a seat belt, and not even sitting in a seat.

In Henriott v. State, the Court found that because the defendant ran his car off the road, smelled of alcoholic beverages, his face was flushed, he was unsteady on his feet, and he failed two dexterity tests, there was sufficient evidence of impairment to establish the defendant’s intoxication.

In Pittman v. State, Evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of public intoxication under IC 7.1-5-1-3 because defendant was at a gas station and an officer observed that defendant’s speech was slurred, she was unsteady on her feet, and she was belligerent and uncooperative.

But, in Morris v. State, the Court held that the evidence was insufficient to support defendant’s conviction for public intoxication because the State failed to provide any evidence he was intoxicated on controlled substance; the officer offered no testimony about his training as to the effects of being under influence of bath salts so as to qualify as an expert.

Public Place

As the name of the crime suggests, to be convicted of public intoxication in Indiana, you must be in a public place.  Often, Defendants will argue they were not in a public place.

For example, in Moore v. State, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a private residence, including the grounds surrounding it, is not a public place.

In Haynes v. State, the Court held that evidence that the defendant was intoxicated on the porch of a private residence is insufficient to support his conviction for public intoxication, and the evidence the defendant was intoxicated in an area off the porch is similarly deficient because there is no evidence the area “off” the porch is a public area.

But, in State v. Jenkins, the Court held that because an outside, unenclosed courtyard area of an apartment complex was sufficiently distinguishable from an interior common area of an apartment building such that defendant was in a public place, his arrest for public intoxication was not improper.

Also, in Wright v. State, the Court held that a hotel hallway was a public place for the purposes of the public intoxication statute.

Endangering, Breaching Peace, Annoying or Harassing

Beyond the intoxication and public place elements of the crime, the Indiana Public Intoxication statute requires that an intoxicated person either endangers his own life, someone else’s life, breaches the peace or will breach the peace, harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.

In Davis v. State, the Indiana Court of Appeals stated that Evidence in a prosecution for public intoxication did not show past or present conduct by defendant that amounted to endangerment of his or another’s life, as there was no evidence that defendant went anywhere near the busy, dangerous roads outside an apartment complex, there was no evidence that the road within the apartment complex presented a danger to him, and the argument that he was in danger of being struck by a car if he left the complex was merely speculative.

In Stephens v. State, evidence was not sufficient to support a conviction for public intoxication because, although defendant was intoxicated based on an odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and unsteady gait, the evidence did not show that defendant either endangered himself or others, breached or was in imminent danger of breaching the peace, or harassed, annoyed, or alarmed another person. Defendant was in a private place before calling police from a parking lot to remove himself from a dangerous situation at a residence.

Likewise, in Morgan v. State, evidence was insufficient to sustain defendant’s conviction for public intoxication because defendant was asleep at a bus shelter, which was unlikely to annoy a reasonable person, and there were no other people at the bus shelter aside from defendant, his brother, and a police officer; although defendant was agitated after being approached by the police officer, the degree of agitation he expressed, standing alone, did not rise to the level that would annoy a reasonable person.

Also, in Milam v. State, there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for public intoxication. Defendant’s conduct of sitting in the passenger seat of a pulled-over car and arguing and attempting to avoid blame for throwing a bottle out of the window did not reach the level of disturbing the peace, harassment, annoyance, or alarm.

But, in Naas v. State, evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for public intoxication because defendant had red and watery eyes, slurred speech, unsteady balance, and an odor of alcohol about his person; moreover, defendant was alarming others by walking toward them in an aggressive manner while yelling.

And, in Brown v. State, evidence was sufficient to prove public intoxication because defendant harassed, annoyed, or alarmed a woman by bumping into her in his intoxicated state as defendant ran into the woman after walking out of a bar; the woman started screaming after defendant ran into her, but defendant continued walking and ignored an officer’s requests to stop; and defendant was entirely unaware of his surroundings.

Also, in Ruiz v. State, evidence was sufficient to support defendant’s conviction for public intoxication because he was intoxicated in a public place and police were required to come three times to respond to residents’ complaints about him yelling at them; defendant admitted he was “furious” and “had a little attitude” toward the responding officer. This evidence supported an inference that he was in imminent danger of breaching the peace.

PUBLIC INTOXICATION INDIANA PUNISHMENT / PENALTIES

 As the statute states, a conviction for public intoxication in Indiana is a Class B Misdemeanor.

Class B Misdemeanors in Indiana are punishable by up to 180 days in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000.00.

POTENTIAL DEFENSES TO PUBLIC INTOXICATION IN INDIANA

People often wonder how to beat a charge of public intoxication in Indiana.  As you can see from the cases we reviewed above, the State of Indiana has to prove the three elements of the crime of Public Intoxication to secure a conviction:

  1. That you were intoxicated;
  2. That you were in a public place; and
  3. That you either endangered your own life, someone else’s life, breached the peace or were about to breach the peace, harassed, annoyed, or alarmed another person.

If the State fails to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, one of the above elements, then you should be successful in defeating a charge of public intoxication.

Schedule a Free Consultation with an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney Today

While this article contains a lot of information regarding public intoxication laws in Indiana, it is NOT a substitute for speaking to a qualified Indiana criminal defense attorney.

If you are facing a public intoxication charge in Indiana, it is important you speak to an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case.  Avnet Law understands the issues, the law, and can advise you regarding the Indiana public intoxication laws and any potential defenses you may raise.  Avnet Law represents clients charged with crimes in Indianapolis, Noblesville, Fishers, Carmel, Westfield, and Central Indiana.

Call 1-877-77-AVNET to Schedule a Free Consultation with an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By | 2018-09-20T04:33:40+00:00 September 20th, 2018|