UPDATES & ANALYSIS

6.12

Happy Friday: Iowa Supreme Court says that it’s not illegal to drink on your front steps.

by Ryan Koopmans | June 12, 2015

By Ryan Koopmans

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled today that Iowa’s public-intoxication law does not cover the front porch or front steps of a single-family house.  You probably didn’t think that was subject to debate.  It was, but it’s now settled.  Let summer begin.

On June 22, 2013, just before midnight, Waterloo police officers were responding to a domestic-dispute call at a single-family residence and were met at the front steps by Patience Paye, the woman who had reported the incident.  After investigating, the officers decided that Paye was actually the aggressor, so they arrested her for domestic assault and public intoxication. (Paye had failed a breath test.) 

The State dropped the domestic-assuault charge, but Paye was convicted of public intoxication.  She appealed, arguing that Iowa’s public-intoxication law can’t cover front-step drunkenness, because the front steps aren’t “public.” 

The Iowa Supreme Court agreed.  Justice Hecht, writing for a unanimous court, summed it up this way:

[I]f the front stairs of a single-family residence are always a public place, it would be a crime to sit there calmly on a breezy summer day and sip a mojito, celebrate a professional achievement with a mixed drink of choice, or even baste meat on the grill with a bourbon-infused barbeque sauce—unless one first obtained a liquor license. We do not think the legislature intended Iowa law to be so heavy-handed.

Read the entire opinion here.

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