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Ind. S. Ct: Drunk Passenger Can Still Be Charged

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 06, 2011 2:07 PM

Though she may have simply been a drunk passenger in a vehicle, in 2008, Brenda Moore was arrested for public intoxication when her designated driver was pulled over and found to be driving without a valid license.

Perturbed by the law's application in a situation that is encouraged by governments all over the country, she appealed her conviction on the grounds that it violated public policy.

While this may be true, according to the Indiana Supreme Court, it's not illegal.

When her brother's friend requested a ride, Brenda Moore informed him that she had been drinking, but that if he had a valid license, he could drive her car. He agreed, and she rode with him in the passenger seat.

Once pulled over by police, it turned out that he did not have a valid license. She could have taken over driving duties, but told the officer that she had been drinking.

She was arrested for public intoxication.

Though it tends only to be enforced when a passenger's safety is in question, a vehicle on a public roadway is technically a public place for the purposes of public intoxication.

This is true of Indiana, as well as in many other states.

So even though the government encourages people to do as Brenda Moore did, and return home once intoxicated and drive responsibly, she was still in violation of the law.

And while the Indiana Supreme Court could have ruled differently, it determined that carving a drunk passenger/sober driver exception into the state's public intoxication law is a job for the legislature, not the court.

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