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.