When Does “Being Drunk in Public” Become Public Intoxication?
Drunk in public becoming public intoxication
Anyone who has dined in a restaurant or enjoyed a few drinks in a bar has probably seen someone who indulged in alcohol a little too much. Perhaps you have even seen a patron become a bit too loud or even belligerent.
In Indiana, as of 2012, it is not a crime to be intoxicated in public. It is, however, a crime to be drunk (or under the influence of drugs) in public and threatens someone’s life (or your own). It is also a crime to be drunk and breach the peace or harass, alarm, or annoy someone. If you think this sounds somewhat vague, you are not alone. In 2014, an Indiana Court of Appeals struck down the “annoy” part of the public intoxication statute, stating it was unconstitutionally vague.
The court agreed with the appellant – a police officer who had been arrested while off duty for being drunk in a public bus stop – that “the term ‘annoys’ criminalizes behavior depending on the subjective sensitivities of each individual, and it fails to provide sufficiently definite warning as to the proscribed conduct when measured by common understanding.”
The court also said that section of the public intoxication statute “enables arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement because the illegality of the conduct… is based solely on the subjective feelings of a particular person at any given time.”
Supreme Court Upholds ‘Annoys’
In late 2014, however, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision, upholding the statute as-is, with the word “annoys” firmly in place. According to the high court, the word “annoys” is not vague because it is accompanied by the words “harasses” and “alarms.”
This means you can still be charged with a misdemeanor for being publicly intoxicated and doing things that annoy, harass, or alarm people. A conviction carries penalties of up to 180 days in jail and fines up to $1,000. In many situations, an individual is arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including public intoxication and assault.
It is easy to see how the behavior that gives rise to a public intoxication charge is something of a gray area. What constitutes harassment to one person may vary to another. The context is also important. A person who drinks too much at a rock concert will likely have a very different experience and provocations than someone who indulges in alcohol at a wedding or a wine tasting party. In many cases, it is possible to challenge these types of charges based on flawed testimony, the circumstances surrounding the defendant at the time, and evidence errors.
Get Help from a Lawyer Today
If you have been charged with public intoxication, you need an experienced lawyer on your side as soon as possible. Timing is critical. Don’t wait to speak to an attorney. Call Razumich Law, P.C. today at (317) 983-5333 for a free consultation.
The laws governing legal advertising in the state of Indiana require the following statement in any publication of this kind: “THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT.” This website is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship.