- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Intoxicated people who annoy others in public can be arrested in Indiana, the Indiana Supreme Court says.

The court on Thursday upheld the constitutionality of Indiana’s public intoxication statute, which makes it a misdemeanor if a person is drunk in a public place and “harasses, annoys or alarms another person.”

The court’s 5-0 ruling overturned a February state Court of Appeals decision that struck down the “annoys” portion of the law as impermissibly vague, The Times of Munster reported (https://bit.ly/1zE2GVf ).

Justice Steven David wrote in Thursday’s ruling that the word “annoys” is only vague if it stands alone. He says when the word is considered alongside “harasses” and “alarms,” a reasonable person easily can understand the types of behavior that are prohibited.

The ruling involves a challenge to the 2012 public intoxication conviction of a 52-year-old Indianapolis man.

Rodregus Morgan was sleeping in a downtown bus shelter when an Indianapolis police officer tried to awaken him. When Morgan became agitated and reluctant to leave the shelter, the officer arrested him on a public intoxication charge, claiming Morgan smelled of alcohol and his behavior was annoying.

The Supreme Court vacated Morgan’s conviction. David said someone who’s sleeping isn’t likely to annoy a reasonable person and noted that Morgan wasn’t preventing others from using the bus shelter.

“When (the officer) attempted to wake Morgan by tapping him on the shoulder, Morgan responded, ‘Get off of me.’ If a person - intoxicated or not - is being awoken by a stranger, this response is not surprising, nor does it indicate a level of agitation that a reasonable person would see as annoying,” David said.

Before 2012, Indiana’s public intoxication law made it a crime to be drunk in public under any circumstance, including as a passenger in a vehicle operated by a sober driver.

The General Assembly changed the law that year to require that a person must be endangering himself or another person to be charged with public intoxication.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com


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