Criminalization of “Annoying” Behavior

The Indiana Supreme Court has assumed jurisdiction over an interesting case and will be determining whether the criminalization of “annoying” behavior in Indiana’s public intoxication statute is unconstitutionally vague.

In the recent case of Morgan v. State, 4 N.E.3d 751 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a subsection of Indiana’s public intoxication statute criminalizing “annoying” another person is unconstitutionally vague. Indiana Code 7.1-5-1-3(a)(4) reads as follows: “[I]t is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to be in a public place or a place of public resort in a state of intoxication caused by the person’s use of alcohol or a controlled substance (as defined in IC 35-48-1-9), if the person: … (4) harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.” The Court of Appeals concluded this subsection fails to provide notice to enable ordinary people to understand the prohibited conduct, and “it neither requires that a defendant … specifically intend to annoy another person, nor does it employ an objective standard to assess whether a defendant’s conduct would be annoying to a reasonable person.” Id. at 754, 758. Further, the statute allows arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, as the illegality of the conduct is based on “the subjective feelings of a particular person at any given time.” Id. at 758 (citing Gaines v. State, 973 N.E.2d 1239, 1243 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012)).

Do you think the Supreme Court will uphold the Court of Appeal’s decision? We are eager to find out the ruling this fall.

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