Indiana court rules that being drunk and annoying is not against the law

The Indiana Court of Appeals finds that a portion of state's intoxication law is too vague.
By Evan Bleier   |   Feb. 17, 2014 at 10:43 AM   |   Comments

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Thanks to an Indiana Court of Appeals ruling that erased a portion of the state's intoxication law for being too vague, it is no longer a misdemeanor in the state to annoy another person in a public place while intoxicated.

The court issued its ruling last week after Rodregus Morgan filed an appeal about an August 2012 arrest for public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

Morgan was allegedly asleep and intoxicated in a bus shelter when he was approached by a police officer. When the officer attempted to rouse him, Morgan looked at the officer and said, "Get off of me," according to documents. After noticing there was a strong smell of alcohol "emitting from Morgan's breath and body … coupled with the fact that … his behavior was annoying,” the officer arrested Morgan.

He appealed under the premise that the statute doesn’t define “annoys” and it is impossible to set an objective standard for what “annoys” means.

“We find the challenged portion of Indiana’s public intoxication statute to be unconstitutionally vague. Namely, the statute neither requires that a defendant have specifically intended to annoy another, nor does it employ an objective standard to assess whether a defendant’s conduct would be annoying to a reasonable person,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote in the ruling.

“Furthermore, the statute does not mandate that the defendant have been first warned that his behavior was considered annoying conduct. Instead, this section of the statute enables arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement because the illegality of any conduct -- no matter how trivial or how substantial -- is based solely on the subjective feelings of a particular person at any given time.”

As a result of the ruling, Morgan's public intoxication conviction was overturned but his disorderly conduct conviction was affirmed.

[The Indiana Lawyer]

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