2012-03-27 / Front Page

Prosecutor Comments On Changes To Indiana’s Public Intoxication Law

Staff Report

Governor Mitch Daniels recently signed a bill into law that is meant to let Hoosiers walk in public or ride in a car while intoxicated without fear of arrest — unless they’re causing a problem.

Senate Bill 97 narrowed the scope of the state’s public intoxication law.

“These are people who are not drinking and driving, but are returning home safely by catching a ride with someone else or walking home,” said the bill’s author, Republican state senator Mike Young of Indianapolis. “Without this clarification, innocent Hoosiers were being charged with crimes that were unfair.”

Young introduced the bill after the Indiana Supreme Court decided a case known as Moore v. State. In that decision, the justices reinstated the public intoxication conviction of an Indianapolis woman who was a passenger in her car being driven by a sober, designated driver.

Under the new law, individuals can no longer be convicted of public intoxication unless they endanger their own life or someone else’s life, or if they are likely to disturb the peace, create a disturbance or harass another person.

An amendment to the bill added a waiver for officers that says they are not liable if the officer fails to enforce this section.

Owen County Prosecutor Don VanDerMoere added, “I’m particularly happy with the amendment to the law which protects our law enforcement officers from liability when they do not arrest an otherwise intoxicated person who appears in public or who is a passenger in a vehicle. This is due to the fact that I can foresee potential problems if and when these intoxicated people go home and get into a vehicle and drive or when they stumble into oncoming traffic and are injured or worse yet injure someone else.”

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