The Puzzling Case of Moore v. State

Held, by the Indiana Supreme Court: A drunken passenger in a car that is pulled over for a traffic violation is guilty of public intoxication, on the ground that “established precedent has long recognized that a person in a vehicle stopped along a highway is in a public place for purposes of the public intoxication statute. ” (citing Miles v. State, 247 Ind. 423, 425, 216 N.E.2d 847, 849 (1966)).

What a strange result, and as far as I can tell, entirely avoidable. First, the Miles case seems easily distinguishable. In Miles, the person arrested was found by the officer parked by the side of the road with the window down, and thus was at least plausibly in “public.” In contrast, as I understand Moore, the defendant was only stopped by the side of the road because the police officer seized Moore and forced Moore to be stopped by the side of the road when the officer pulled over the vehicle.

Under the principle of the venerable case of Martin v. State, 31 Ala. App. 334, 12 So.2d 427 (1944) — taught in nearly every 1L criminal law course — I would think this makes a critical difference: An officer can’t force a drunken person to be in “public” and then arrest the person for being drunk in public. As the Martin court put it:

[A] voluntary appearance is presupposed [by the statute]. The rule has been declared, and we think it sound, that an accusation of drunkenness in a designated public place cannot be established by proof that the accused, while in an intoxicated condition, was involuntarily and forcibly carried to that place by the arresting officer.

I would think the same principle applies when the defendant was forcibly stopped along the highway.

Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link.