Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

March 17 Show: whether public intoxication should be a criminal offense?

   Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. Until I moved to West Laughalot (a/k/a West Lafayette), I did not understand there was a component of consumption of alcohol to the holiday. Even at DePauw, where we took advantage of any pretext to throw a party, I do not remember St. Patrick’s Day as a particularly heavy party day.

   In West Laughalot, my perception of the holiday changed. We would hit The Stabilizer ("Stabes") for drink specials on the holiday venerating Ireland’s patron saint. Later, I moved to Chicago, and the celebration of the holiday was ramped up to new levels. People hammered drinks. I was on a commuter train one year when everyone was partying at 9 in the morning heading into Union Station. The Chicago River was green—maybe from dye or maybe from pollution. People fell down drunk.

   I moved back to Indiana, and to Indy in 1986.

   Tomorrow is a day when "everyone is Irish." (I’m not. I am Welsh by ancestry. But I shall celebrate with everyone anyway.) There will be drink specials at bars. Many people will be responsible and arrange for designated drivers, take cabs, or simply walk to their favorite bar.

   Unfortunately, under Indiana law, any one of them could be arrested and convicted of Public Intoxication.

   I.C. 7.1-5-1-3 makes it a 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..."  In Moore v. State, 949 N.E.2d 343 (Ind. 2011), the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of a woman who had consumed two 16-ounce cans of beers ("tall boys" is what we used to call them in college) and rode with a friend in her car because she was responsible enough to let the friend drive. There was no BAC involved. A BAC is not necessary for an arrest and conviction for public intoxication.

   The statute is unconstitutionally vague, silly, counter to what we have propounded as a societal policy, and hypocritical.

   1) Unconstitutionally vague. There is no clear definition of "intoxication" provided. How can one know the law one if breaking of there is no standard. As a police officer said to me a few months ago, a person who only has had one beer can be arrested for PI. This vagueness transforms the statute into one that enables police to arrest a person if there is no other basis. That is not why we have laws.

   2) The statute is silly because so many people drink in public and potentially could be found guilty of a criminal offense.

   3) The statute is counter to societal policy because the person who chooses to ride with a designated driver has gained nothing for the effort. Sure, perhaps that person has dodged an OVWI, but s/he still can be placed under arrest, after that person drank "responsibly." How many times are we bombarded with ads around certain times of the year—Super Bowl, St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve—to drink responsibly and ride with a designated driver?

   4) The statute is hypocritical because so many of our businesses encourage from drinking in public and profit. Jobs are on the line here, folks. The woman in Moore v. State consumed 32 ounces of beer. That’s 2 2/3 regular beers. A lot of bars would go broke if everyone was cut off after beer number three.

   If someone, while intoxicated, commits an act that is against the law, then arrest the person for that act. Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated should remain an offense because there is conduct—driving—that endangers people in conjunction with the person being intoxicated. Intoxication, by itself, in a public place should not be against the law.

   On "Civil Discourse Now" tomorrow we will discuss whether public intoxication should be a criminal offense. We are looking for a bar in which we can shoot. We plan for The Show will start early—10 a.m.. All (21 years of age or older) are welcome to join us. In the meantime, have a happy St. Patty’s Day.

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Comment by Mark Small on March 17, 2012 at 7:06pm

We couldn't find a bar that wanted to run risks re: liquor licenses & hosting a show in which people said public intox should be legal. So, last minute, we shot it at my office. Sorry. Next week we'll be back at Big Hat.

Comment by Kurt Lorey on March 17, 2012 at 11:39am

I would have showed up, but where?

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