Friday, July 01, 2011

Don't Drink and Be Driven Home

Orin Kerr points out a perplexing case out of Indiana, where the state Supreme Court ruled that a passenger in a vehicle stopped by the police on the highway is "in public" for purpose of a public intoxication statute (the case is Moore v. State).

Professor Kerr observes that the case is easily distinguished from the precedent the Indiana Supreme Court relies upon (Miles v. State), where the police found the drunken defendant parked by the side of the car with his windows rolled down. Here, by contrast, the defendant was only "by the side of the road" pursuant to the police's seizure of the car pursuant to a traffic stop. He notes the famous case of Martin v. State, an Alabama state case taught in law schools nationwide for the proposition that the police cannot take an intoxicated person into "the public", then arrest him for public intoxication (so much of the 1L curriculum is about shattering student's prior conceptions of fairness as irrelevant to the law; Martin is memorable if for no other reason than as a pleasant break from that routine).

But aside from the seemingly specious legal reasoning of the decision, it also seems rather disastrous from a policy perspective. The state has a substantial interest in keeping intoxicated drivers off the road. One of the main ways it seeks to accomplish this is by encouraging drunk individuals to become intoxicated passengers instead. The whole point of a designated driver program is for non-intoxicated persons to drive their intoxicated friends home, rather than letting them drive drunk themselves. This decision seems to fly in the face of that public policy and, to the extent that it discourages the practice of designated driving, makes the state of Indiana considerably less sake safe [Though my friend Mike is right that it was much better in the original. --DS].


danweasel said...

What is going on in the Indiana State Supreme Court? First the ruling that seems to simply reject the Fourth Amendment, now this, which not only seems suspect from a legal point of view (I'll defer to the lawyers on that point.), but makes no fucking sense at all.

Seriously. Which mechanism does Indiana use to appoint justices, and should I simply expect to hear consistently insane rulings out of them for the next 10 years or so?

Andrew said...

I'm amusing myself with the thought that verdict might be open to a 21st Amendment challenge. If you can't get home as a driver *or* passenger, is that effectively outlawing drinking? I'm sure it wasn't brought up in the case (as it's a bit of stretch) and thus is probably waived, but still, an amusing thought.

danweasel said...

In the majority opinion (the linked pdf isn't long) they argue that it was the defendant's right to "beverage selection" was not infringed, since she violated the law only by her subsequent conduct.

chingona said...

Is this kind of reasoning a trend?

In Arizona, illegal immigrants have been charged under anti-smuggling statutes - cause they smuggled themselves - and I think I've read cases where teens who sexted where charged with distributing child porn, even though the images were of themselves.

Nick said...

Well, if you think this is bad, you ain't seen 'nothing yet.

In Illinois, you can be asleep in the passenger seat of a stopped car, and that's considered drunk driving.


PG said...


Why shouldn't the kids starring in child porn be charged criminally for its distribution?