Iowa Supreme Court rules it’s legal to be drunk on your front porch

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The Iowa Supreme Court has reversed a public intoxication conviction of a woman who was drunk on her front porch.  The court ruled it to be reversed since a front porch, in many cases, is not a public place.

The Supreme Court reversed 29-year-old Patience Paye’s conviction on Friday, June 12, 2015.

Back in June of 2013, the Waterloo woman called police claiming to be the victim in a domestic violence dispute that involved her boyfriend, according to court documents.  When police arrived, Paye stepped outside to speak with the officer. She went out “on the front stairs because she did not want to upset her children, who were inside the house.”

From questioning both Paye and her boyfriend, police discovered that the two had argued over car keys, which her boyfriend had reportedly withheld from her because she was drunk, according to the court records.

A blood-alcohol test revealed that Paye was at 0.26 percent concentration, court records show. Police determined that shehad been the aggressor in the situation arrested her for public intoxication. Paye was then taken to the Waterloo Police Station.

Court documents show that during a bench trial the district court said her porch was a public place, since it can be easily seen and accessed by the public.  Paye argued that the only reason she went outside was to talk to the officers and that nobody outside was annoyed or bothered by her.  Regardless of her argument, she was convicted of public intoxication.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled in favor of Paye, ordering the conviction to be reversed.

“If 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,” Justice Daryl Hecht wrote in the court’s unanimous opinion, according to the report. “We do not think the legislature intended Iowa law to be so heavy-handed.”

The Supreme Court stated that the only way a single-family home’s front steps would be considered public, would be if the general public were invited there.  Alternatively, in their opinion they noted that apartment buildings and shared homes are considered public since it is a shared space.

Click here to read the court’s full opinion document



  • Mike

    wow… I’ve been overseas too long. This made me shake my head that this even came up. There’s places in Germany where you pull a beer and drink loaded wagon down the streets and party… and this is in a massive city.

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