Iowa Supreme Court Affirms Your Right To Be Drunk On Your Front Porch

The Iowa Supreme Court strikes a blow for liberty.

Glasses of Beer

The Iowa Supreme Court has affirmed that people have a right to be drunk on their front porch:

DES MOINES, Ia. — The Iowa Supreme Court has affirmed the right to be drunk on your front porch.

The court ruled Friday in the case of Patience Paye, who appealed her 2013 public intoxication conviction.

Paye called police after fighting with her boyfriend and met officers on the front porch of her Waterloo home. While investigating the domestic assault complaint an officer questioned Paye about whether she’d been drinking.

A test revealed her blood alcohol concentration at 0.267 percent, more than three times the amount considered drunk for driving.

Paye was charged with public intoxication, but she appealed her conviction. In her appeal, Paye argued that the front porch of her home is not a “public” place as that is defined in the statue under which she was charged. In it’s opinion, which you can read here, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with Paye and held that the front porch of a residence cannot be considered a public space unless the homeowner regularly grants access to it to members of the general public. Since that was not the case with Paye, her conviction for being publicly intoxicated could not stand.

While there are certainly plenty of jokes one could make about this decision, and I encourage all of you with front porches not open to the public to celebrate this decision appropriately this weekend, it strikes me that it also stands for an important point. There are many criminal offenses on the books today that make certain types of behavior on ‘public’ property a crime merely because a certain act was committed on public property. If you did the same thing on your own property, such as Ms. Paye did, you wouldn’t be guilty of anything at all. In this case, the mere fact that you are outside doesn’t mean that you are in”public.” Ms. Paye was still on her property, if she wanted to be drunk on her own property that’s her choice, an unwise one though it may admittedly be. The same would apply if someone was on a deck on the back of their own. Yes, they’re outside, but to say that they are in “public” is to eliminate any distinction at all between public and private property. So, for that one reason, the Justices in Des Moines did everyone a service.

Here’s the opinion:

State of Iowa v. Patience Paye by Doug Mataconis

FILED UNDER: General, Law and the Courts
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. DrDaveT says:

    The mind-boggling part of this is that the District Court got it wrong in the first place. What the heck was the judge thinking?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Fuk’n a right. (Buuuuuurrrrp.)

  3. Pete S says:

    The Supreme Court decision seems pretty obvious, probably one of the easiest cases they will ever decide. Their point about someone getting a ride home from the bar being subject to arrest for walking into their own house is pretty convincing.

    It seems there is some detail missing, as to how the victim of an alleged domestic assault winds up getting arrested for public intoxication, at home, in the first place? I cannot imagine the police really want to arrest someone in this situation so something must have happened.

  4. Jack says:

    @Pete S: She got mouthy with the police and they arrested her for not displaying the proper reverence to their tin badges and police costumes. Of course, contempt of cop is not a legitimate charge…thus, public intoxication.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Just in time for Friday!!!!

  6. CSK says:

    The Iowa Supreme Court clearly had no Patience with this idiocy.

    Wasn’t there a case a few years back concerning a man who mowed his own lawn nude, and the neighbors objected rather vociferously? I don’t know if this matter was ever settled, but if you can be drunk on your own porch, can you be naked on your front lawn?

    Doug?

  7. grumpy realist says:

    Ok, now here’s the next one–what if a guy is peeing off the edge of his porch visible from the sidewalk? Is that considered public lewdness or not?

    (Am pretty sure that you can’t get accused of anything walking nude around your house indoors. Can you walk around nude in your back garden?)

  8. Jack says:

    Is it considered “lewd” when you pee in private? If not, then why should it be considered “lewd” to pee in public?

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @Jack: Well, there are laws against public urination, y’know.

  10. Barry says:

    @DrDaveT: “What the heck was the judge thinking? ”

    @Jack: “She got mouthy with the police and they arrested her for not displaying the proper reverence to their tin badges and police costumes. Of course, contempt of cop is not a legitimate charge…thus, public intoxication. ”

    Dr.Dave, meet Jack. IMHO, it was that, and they typical judge, who works with the police, rather than as a check and balance.

  11. Dave D says:

    Just in time for Pride this weekend in Des Moines and Senator Sanders visiting. Porch Party weekend.

  12. bill says:

    so if you’re homeless does that mean you can be drunk anywhere ?!

  13. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    But on your own property? In your own rosebushes? It’s an interesting question.

  14. DrDaveT says:

    @Barry:

    Dr.Dave, meet Jack.

    Oh, I have no doubt Jack has it exactly right about why the arrest was made. It was the original conviction that startled me.

  15. Lynn Eggers says:

    @grumpy realist: “Am pretty sure that you can’t get accused of anything walking nude around your house indoors. Can you walk around nude in your back garden?)”

    Yes, you can get arrested for being nude in your house, depending on the circumstances.

    Years ago, I evaluated a man who had been arrested for standing in front of his picture window (inside the house), stark naked, every morning. He had the lights set to highlight him, and would stand there looking nonchalant.

    There was another guy who was arrested for masturbating in his own house. He was on the bed, below the level of an open window, but two young women across the way, in an apartment at a higher level, were able to see him by standing on chairs in their own window.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    @Pete S:”It seems there is some detail missing, as to how the victim of an alleged domestic assault winds up getting arrested for public intoxication, at home, in the first place?”

    It wasn’t clear she was the victim. According to the man, presumably boyfriend, they got into an argument because he wouldn’t let her have the car keys because she was drunk. She punched him, and he grabbed her arms to protect himself and scratched her arm in the process. She called, but the cops found his story credible. Probably because her blood alcohol level was 0.267.

  17. PD Shaw says:

    @PD Shaw: Also, the police initially charged her with domestic assault, but dropped the charges. I’ll speculate that the man didn’t want to press them.

    The Court listed a variety of alternative charges that might have been made against her.

    It seems to me that the police saw her as extremely drunk and out-of-control and a risk of driving and wanted her put in time out for the night.