New Indiana Public Intoxication Law Goes into Effect July 1, 2012

As of May 25, 2012, Governor Mitch Daniels has signed the new Public Intoxication law into effect. The new law will go into effect July 1, 2012.  The intent of the new law, among other things, is to discourage potential drunk drivers from operating a motor vehicle, by not penalizing them by imposing criminal liability for getting home by other means.  Also, the legislature sought to limit the authority of police officers in utilizing this offense in other, less appropriate situations.

Previous to the passage of Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 97 (2012), law enforcement officers would often use the current public intoxication statute to impose criminal penalties upon individuals when they did not have the necessary reasonable suspicion to charge them with other crimes.  In other words, the law often served as a “catch all” for law enforcement officers when they couldn’t establish that the suspect violated any other laws.

In my experience, often times officers would charge drivers of motor vehicles with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of less than 0.08 with public intoxication, since intoxication under the old law was up to the individual officer’s discretion.  In other words, a person could be charged with public intoxication solely because the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe the person(s) were intoxicated, regardless of an actual blood alcohol concentration.  Another common situation used to occur when the driver of a motor vehicle was taken into custody for driving under the influence (DUI) or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) and the passenger also admitted to drinking or where the officer smelled alcohol on the person’s breath or in the vehicle.

As of July 1, 2012, this is no longer the case.  The new law reads:

    SECTION 1. IC 7.1-5-1-3, AS AMENDED BY SEA 274-2012, SECTION 2, IS AMENDED TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2012]: Sec. 3. (a) Subject to section 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.

SECTION 2. IC 7.1-5-1-6, AS AMENDED BY SEA 274-2012, SECTION 3, IS AMENDED TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2012]: Sec. 6. (a) Subject to section 6.5 of this chapter, it is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to be, or to become, intoxicated as a result of the person’s use of alcohol or a controlled substance (as defined in IC 35-48-1-9) in or upon a vehicle commonly used for the public transportation of passengers, or in or upon a common carrier, or in or about a depot, station, airport, ticket office, waiting room or platform, 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.
(emphasis added).

Under the new law, law enforcement must demonstrate reasonable suspicion that the person or persons endangered themselves, endangered others, or breached the peace.  In other words, as of July 1, 2012, it will be lawful for a person to peaceably walk home from a party or an establishment after drinking.  Several versions of this bill were debated, and the final version weakened the original position somewhat, adding the “breach of peace” element.

In my opinion, the new law still leaves the door open to give law enforcement officers discretion in deciding who to arrest.  Making a determination such as a “breach of the peace” is inherently subjective; all subjective determinations are up to law enforcement.  We will see how the new law plays out…

If you have been charged with public intoxication in Indiana and need advice from a lawyer.  One of the criminal defense lawyers at GORDON ETZLER & ASSOCIATES, LLP can help!  CALL FOR A FREE CONSULTATION TODAY!  (219) 531-7787.

 

  • gary.bradley

    was stoped by police and given twobreath alizer tests on sight and the officer said i passed both tests but i was going to the station for another breath test if i refuese i would be arested and lose my licenes for two years .By the time i got to the station an hour had passed and i blue a .09 but i had not been behind the wheel i was not even in the car when the officer pulled up behind my car and no key in car june 16 can they charge me dui or pi please inform me thank you

  • john amrine

    I had an accident 2 weeks ago I was the only vehicle involved when i was distracted and ran off the road. The car was not driveable so i walked back to the nearest exit to get cell service. I went to a resturant and had a few drinks and watched so football while i was waiting for my wife to pick me up. Also i called AAA to tow my car. When AAA was on their way about 2 hours later, I started to walk back to the car but a lady stopped and offered me a ride. Meanwhile the local sherriffs dept towed the car. She dropped me off at the next exit. At that time i called the sherriffs dept. to ask about the car. They sent a duputy to where i was and i got arrested for public intoxication. I did not bother no one, I was only there maybe 10 min. This happened in greensburg In I was on my way home to Cincinnati. My wife was working and could not pick me up for a while. I was put in lockup for 16 hours and posted bond. I go Wed 24th for my hearing, should i plead nocontest? What should i expect? I have no crimnal record. Thanks John Amrine 513-200-5853

  • chad becker

    can the police charge you with a p.i without giving you a breathalizer, because they did so to me and i am currently going to court for it. i never admitted to drinking, so how can they prove that i was under the influence? i live in portage indiana where this seems to be a common occurence.

    • cab

      Chad,

      You definitely need to hire an attorney to represent you to get the best outcome possible. There are a variety of complex legal concepts at work here, but the short answer is, yes, you can be charged with public intoxication without being administered a breathalyzer test. In Indiana it is based on the discretion of the individual police officer, arbitrary and unfair as that may be. Indiana did pass a new public intoxication law this past June that may affect your case. Please call me to discuss the details.

      Please give me a call for a FREE CONSULTATION. (219) 531-7787.

      -Attorney Christopher A. Buckley, Partner
      GORDON ETZLER & ASSOCIATES, LLP

      ***Comments or posts are not intended to provide legal advice, nor to establish an attorney-client relationship. Please contact our office to discuss obtaining legal representation.***

  • robert inman

    i was arrested for PI while in the passenger seat of my girlfriends car in front of my house. i figured that she would be close to the legal limit. when the five police officers, who were surrounding her at the time, told her that she needed to take a breathalizer i leaned over and, to make sure she would hear me, cracked the driver side door open to tell here that she should only take a blood test because it was more accurate. i was also figuring that it may buy her some much needed time to lower her BAC. they pulled me out and placed me in handcuffs and told me, at first, i was being arrested for obstruction of justice. but when we got to the jail they turned it into a PI charge. i was never informed of my rights. i was never allowed to use a phone to make a call. my BAC was .07( under the limit as far as i know). please help

    • Chris Buckley

      Well, unfortunately Robert, public intoxication does not require a specific blood alcohol content (BAC) to support a conviction. Intoxication is inferred from the facts and circumstances, a.k.a. officer’s testimony, as well as the probable cause affidavit. In other words, no specific level of alcohol in your blood is needed to prove the criminal offense. However, as mentioned in the article above, the officer now needs to prove that you were a threat to yourself or others to sustain a conviction. You need to consult a licensed Indiana attorney to protect your rights. Please call for a FREE CONSULTATION. (219) 531-7787.

      Hope that helps,

      -Christopher A. Buckley, Partner
      GORDON ETZLER & ASSOCIATES, LLP

      ***This site is not intended to provide legal advice or to establish an attorney-client relationship. Please seek professional legal assistance by contacting a licensed attorney. This site, its articles, and all comments are intended solely for entertainment and educational purposes only.***

  • Liz

    I have an issue relating to an incident that occurred while visiting Monroe County, IN. I live in Lake County. Do you represent cases like this?