Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Jeffrey L. Harris, District Associate Judge. A criminal defendant appeals her conviction for public intoxication, contending the front steps of her single-family residence are not a " public place" under the public intoxication statute.
Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Rachel C. Regenold, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Benjamin Parrott, Assistant Attorney General, Thomas Ferguson, County Attorney, and Jeremy Westendorf and Kimberly Griffith, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.
Twelve years ago, we concluded the front steps and common hallway of an apartment house are public places under Iowa's public intoxication statute. State v. Booth, 670 N.W.2d 209, 215-16 (Iowa 2003); see Iowa Code § 123.46(2) (2013) (" A person shall not be intoxicated in a public place." ). However, in Booth, we concluded " the front steps of a single-family home are clearly distinguishable from the front steps of [an] apartment house," and left " for another day any other questions related to the character of the front steps of a single-family home." Booth, 670 N.W.2d at 212 n.1. Today we answer the question we left open in Booth : The front steps of a single-family home are not a public place under section 123.46(2) unless the home's residents make them public by extending a general invitation to the public at large to come upon the property. Because the State failed to prove the defendant in this case extended such an invitation to the public, we reverse her conviction and remand the case for the district court to dismiss the public intoxication charge.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
On June 22, 2013, just before midnight, Waterloo police responded to a 911 call from Patience Paye. Paye reported she was the victim of domestic violence and requested police assistance. Upon arrival at the residence, Officer John Heuer proceeded inside and located the alleged aggressor, Kendrall Murray, while Officer Melissa Lippert spoke with Paye on the front stairs of the home. Paye did not exit the home until the officers arrived. She chose to step outside and speak with Officer Lippert on the front stairs because she did not want to upset her children, who were inside the house.
Murray provided Officer Heuer with his account of the evening's events. According to Murray, he and Paye began arguing over car keys. Murray had refused to let Paye leave the home with the car because she did not have a driver's license and, according to Murray, she was intoxicated. Paye became irate at Murray's refusal and punched him in the eye. Murray grabbed Paye's arm to prevent further punches or slaps and scratched Paye's arm in the process. Murray told Officer Heuer he and Paye frequently got into arguments when Paye was intoxicated and averred the evening's events were simply the latest episode.
Seeking to verify Murray's statement that Paye was intoxicated, Officer Heuer returned to the front steps and asked Paye if she had consumed any alcohol that day. Paye initially denied she had been drinking, but then admitted she had " one shot earlier in the day." Paye agreed to provide a breath sample. The sample yielded a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of
0.267. A second sample several minutes later yielded a BAC of 0.264. After additional discussion with Officer Lippert, Officer Heuer determined Paye was the aggressor in the dispute with Murray. The officers arrested Paye for public intoxication and transported her to the Waterloo police station.
The State charged Paye by trial information with public intoxication in violation of Iowa Code section 123.46. Paye had a previous public intoxication conviction, so the State charged a serious misdemeanor rather than a simple misdemeanor. See Iowa Code § § 123.46(2) (providing public intoxication is a simple misdemeanor), .91(1) (providing a second conviction is a serious misdemeanor). Paye waived her right to a jury trial.
During the ensuing bench trial, the district court received in evidence a photograph of Paye's residence. The photograph depicts the front entrance to the residence consisting of several stairs approaching a small rectangular area that can fairly be characterized as an enclosed entryway. Metal hand railings are situated on either side of the stairs, and the stairs are neither enclosed nor covered by a roof or awning. The front yard of the residence is not fenced. On the night in question, there were no signs posted indicating that ...