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Iowa Supreme Court Upholds The Right To Get Drunk On Your Front Porch Steps

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Daryl Hecht, the Iowa Supreme Court has concluded that the front steps of a single-family home are not a public place under Iowa’s public intoxication statute unless the home's residents make them public by extending a general invitation to the public at large to come upon the property. As result, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed Patience Paye’s conviction for public intoxication because the State failed to prove that she extended such an invitation to the public.

Ms. Paye had called 911 to report that she was the victim of domestic violence. She spoke with a police officer on the front steps of her home. The police determined Ms. Paye was the aggressor in the domestic dispute and arrested her for public intoxication and domestic assault, although the latter charge was subsequently dismissed.

The Supreme Court found there is a significant difference between the implied invitation extended to a prospective customer of a business and the implied invitation allowing people to approach the front stairs of a single-family residence. Ms. Paye’s implied consent for the police to enter her property did not confer a right on the public to enter it at will or constitute a generalized invitation for access to the public.

The implied limited license of persons to approach Ms. Paye's front door did not transform the stairs of her single-family residence to a public place for purposes of the public intoxication statute. Ms. Paye could not be guilty of public intoxication because she was not intoxicated in a public place. subscribers can access the opinion at State v. Paye, 2015 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 67 (Iowa June 12, 2015).  Lexis Advance subscribers can access it here: State v. Paye, 2015 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 67 (Iowa June 12, 2015).

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