Indianapolis, Indiana – This week, the Indiana Supreme Court voted unanimously to uphold the state’s public intoxication statute, which makes it illegal to annoy someone while under the influence of alcohol. The law specifically calls for misdemeanor charges against people who “harass, annoy or alarm another person,” while drunk.
Earlier this year, the Indiana Court of Appeals attempted to change the wording of the statute, because many people complained about the “annoy” portion of the law, saying that it was extremely vague and could be easy for police to abuse. Unfortunately, that appeal was struck down this week in a 5-0 vote in the supreme court.
Justice Steven David, one of the judges who voted to uphold the law, said that the statute is fine as it is currently written, because “any reasonable person can easily understand the types of behaviors that are prohibited when the word ‘annoy’ is listed alongside ‘harass’ and ‘alarm’ ‘annoys.'” However, this is not how police will interpret the law while on-duty, the law will be interpreted in a way that justifies an arrest, whether that arrest is truly warranted or not.
To prove his point, Justice Steven David threw out a public intoxication charge that a sleeping homeless man was given by an overzealous police officer back in 2012. Sadly, even if David were to pardon everyone who was ever arrested under this statute, the current wording in the law still leaves a huge opportunity for police to abuse their power.
When police have opportunities to abuse their power, there will be plenty of circumstances where those opportunities are taken, and innocent people usually end up getting hurt in the process.
This situation is a perfect example of the interesting dynamic that takes place between law makers and law enforcers, where each group blames the other for the violence of the system, when in reality, they are both responsible.
The laws for public intoxication in Indiana have been constantly changing in recent years. Prior to 2012, it was actually illegally to be drunk in public anywhere in the state at all, and the recent ordinance, despite its loose wording is said to be a step up from the previous laws that were in place. Under the previous law, it was even illegal to be a drunk passenger in a vehicle with a sober driver.
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work he is also the owner of a successful music promotion company. In 2013, he became one of the organizers of the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.