Morgan v. State

Decision Date18 December 2014
Docket NumberNo. 49S02–1405–CR–00325.,49S02–1405–CR–00325.
Citation22 N.E.3d 570
PartiesRodregus MORGAN, Appellant (Defendant below), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Suzy D. St. John, Ruth A. Johnson, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellant.

Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, George P. Sherman, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A02–1304–CR–00386

, Justice.

Rodregus Morgan was convicted under Indiana's public intoxication statute for being intoxicated in a public place and engaging in annoying conduct. Morgan challenges his conviction on two possible grounds. First, that the Indiana public intoxication statute is unconstitutionally vague. Second, that there was insufficient evidence for his conviction.

Facts and Procedural History

On August 31, 2012, Brycen Garner, a patrol officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, was working part-time for the Indygo Bus Service. Officer Garner was responsible for ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of Indygo customers and operators. It was approximately 9:25 a.m. when Officer Garner overheard a man yelling at another man to wake up inside one of the bus shelters. After listening to the yelling for a couple of minutes and seeing the man inside the shelter continue to wake up and doze back off, Officer Garner exited his patrol vehicle, and in full uniform, walked over to the bus shelter to check on the welfare of the man inside. The man asleep inside the bus shelter was later identified as Rodregus Morgan.

When Officer Garner walked into the shelter, the other man present explained that he was trying to wake his brother. Officer Garner tapped on Morgan's shoulder and tried to wake him. Morgan raised his head and stated, “Get off of me.” (Tr. at 13

.) Officer Garner again tapped Morgan and told him he needed to leave the bus shelter, and repeated this to Morgan again when he did not respond.1 Morgan seemed agitated to Officer Garner but he did comply and get up from the bench. When Morgan stood, Officer Garner noticed him swaying from side-to-side. Morgan's eyes were bloodshot red and glassy, and Officer Garner smelled alcohol. At that time, Officer Garner placed Morgan under arrest for public intoxication because he believed him to be under the influence of alcohol and an annoyance. After Morgan was placed under arrest, Morgan began yelling and making a great deal of noise. Officer Garner directed him to stop making an unreasonable amount of noise but Morgan continued yelling. Due to this behavior, Officer Garner added disorderly conduct and intimidation to Morgan's arrest form.

Morgan was charged with Count I Class D felony intimidation,2 Count II Class B misdemeanor public intoxication,3 and Count III Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct.4 Morgan waived his right to a jury trial. At trial, Morgan explained that he suffers from sleep apnea

, which causes him to fall asleep frequently during the day and in odd places.5 While Morgan admitted to consuming alcohol the night before, he claimed that on the morning of August 31st he did not feel drunk nor did he remember being asked to leave the bus shelter by Officer Garner.

The trial court dismissed Count I, intimidation, and found Morgan guilty of Count II, public intoxication, and Count III, disorderly conduct. Morgan received a concurrent sentence for both counts of one hundred and eighty days suspended to probation, except for sixteen days that Morgan would receive credit for time already served.

Morgan appealed his conviction, arguing that the term “annoys” in Indiana's public intoxication statute is unconstitutionally vague, that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction for public intoxication, and that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction for disorderly conduct. The Court of Appeals held that the term “annoys” within Indiana Code § 7.1–5–1–3(a)(4)

is unconstitutionally vague and struck that term from the statute. Morgan v. State, 4 N.E.3d 751, 758 (Ind.Ct.App.2014). The Court of Appeals also held that there was sufficient evidence to uphold Morgan's disorderly conduct conviction.6

Id. at 760. This Court granted the State's petition to transfer and thereby vacated the Court of Appeals opinion. See Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

Standard of Review
A. Constitutionality of a Statute

A constitutional challenge to a statute is reviewed de novo. Lock v. State, 971 N.E.2d 71, 74 (Ind.2012)

. However, [a] challenge to the validity of a statute must overcome a presumption that the statute is constitutional.” Brown v. State, 868 N.E.2d 464, 467 (Ind.2007) (citing State v. Lombardo, 738 N.E.2d 653, 655 (Ind.2000) ). It is the burden of the party challenging the statute to prove otherwise. Brown, 868 N.E.2d at 467 (citing Brady v. State, 575 N.E.2d 981, 984 (Ind.1991) ).

B. Sufficiency of the Evidence

“In reviewing sufficiency of the evidence, we examine only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences that support the verdict.” Lock, 971 N.E.2d at 74

(citing Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind.2007) ) (internal quotations omitted). The Court will not assess witness credibility nor reweigh evidence. Id. Rather, we consider only the evidence most favorable to the trial court ruling and affirm the conviction unless no reasonable fact-finder could find the elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” Lock, 971 N.E.2d at 74 (quoting Jenkins v. State, 726 N.E.2d 268, 270 (Ind.2000) ) (internal quotations omitted).

I. Constitutionality of Indiana's Public Intoxication Statute

Morgan has specifically challenged Indiana's public intoxication statute as unconstitutionally vague. A criminal statute can be found unconstitutionally vague: (1) for failing to provide notice enabling ordinary people to understand the conduct that it prohibits” or (2) for the possibility that it authorizes or encourages arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement.” Brown, 868 N.E.2d at 467

(citing City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41, 56, 119 S.Ct. 1849, 144 L.Ed.2d 67 (1999) ). However, [i]f a statute has two reasonable interpretations, one constitutional and the other not, we will choose the interpretation that will uphold the constitutionality of the statute.” Sims v. United States Fidelity & Guar. Co., 782 N.E.2d 345, 349 (Ind.2003)

(citing Boehm v. Town of St. John, 675 N.E.2d 318, 321 (Ind.1996) ).

It is also necessary for “a penal statute [to] give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden so that ‘no man shall be held criminally responsible for conduct which he could not reasonably understand to be proscribed.’ Brown, 868 N.E.2d at 467

(citing Healthscript, Inc. v. State, 770 N.E.2d 810, 816 (Ind.2002) ). Yet, [t]his court should ‘nullify a statute on constitutional grounds only where such result is clearly rational and necessary. Sims, 782 N.E.2d at 349 (quoting Bd. of Comm'rs of the Cnty. of Howard v. Kokomo City Plan Comm'n, 263 Ind. 282, 286, 330 N.E.2d 92, 95 (1975) ) (emphasis added). Furthermore, [v]agueness challenges to statutes not threatening First Amendment interests are examined in light of the facts of the case at hand; the statute is judged on an as-applied basis.” Maynard, Warden, et al. v. Cartwright, 486 U.S. 356, 361, 108 S.Ct. 1853, 100 L.Ed.2d 372 (1988) (citing United States v. Powell, 423 U.S. 87, 92–93, 96 S.Ct. 316, 46 L.Ed.2d 228 (1975) ).

Here, the relevant portion of Indiana's public intoxication statute provides:

[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 ... if the person:
* * * *
(4) harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.

Ind.Code § 7.1–5–1–3(a)(4)

(Supp.2014) (effective 2012).7

Morgan has specifically challenged the term “annoys” as unconstitutionally vague. Morgan argues that annoys is not defined in the statute, and that term alone fails to provide the necessary warning or notice of the prohibited conduct that is required in a criminal statute. Furthermore, Morgan asserts that reasonable people disagree as to what behavior is annoying, which demonstrates that there is no objective way to apply this section of the statute.

We would have to agree with Morgan that “annoys,” standing alone, does appear to create a vagueness problem. However, principles of statutory construction and precedent dictate how this Court is to analyze statutory terms. When our precedent and principles of statutory interpretation are applied, we cannot agree with Morgan's conclusion that the term “annoys” is unconstitutionally vague.

The United States Supreme Court provides guidance on how to address constitutional challenges to statutes. In Roth v. U.S., the Court addressed the constitutionality of the federal obscenity statute. 354 U.S. 476, 480, 490–92, 77 S.Ct. 1304, 1 L.Ed.2d 1498 (1957)

. The statute punished mailing material that was “obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy.” Id. at 491, 77 S.Ct. 1304. It was argued that these words “do not mean the same thing to all people....” Id. While recognizing that the words lacked precision, the Court emphasized that precision is not constitutionally required. The Court explained that an earlier test “allowed material to be judged merely by the effect of an isolated excerpt upon particularly susceptible persons.” Id. at 488–89, 77 S.Ct. 1304

(citing Regina v. Hicklin, L.R. 3 Q.B. 360 (1868)). However, the court abandoned this subjective test for a test that determined “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards,” material was obscene. Roth, 354 U.S. at 489, 77 S.Ct. 1304 (emphasis added). While the subjective test risked unconstitutionally restricting freedom of speech and press, “the substituted standard provides safeguards adequate to withstand the charge of constitutional infirmity.” Id....

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