Iowa Supreme Court Says Porch Drinking Is Not a Crime

The ruling absolves a woman arrested for intoxication on the front steps of her own home.


Warner Brothers

Late one night in June 2013, the police department in Waterloo, Iowa, received a 911 call from Patience Pye, who reported that she had been a victim of domestic violence. Upon arriving at Pye's house and conferring with her boyfriend, Kendrall Murray, two officers concluded that Pye had been the aggressor in the altercation. Murray reported that she had become enraged and punched him the eye when he refused to give her the car keys because she was drunk (and in any case did not have a driver's license). He claimed Pye often became belligerent when she was drinking. The cops arrested Pye—not for assault but for public intoxication, even though she ventured no further than the front steps of her own house.

There was no question that Pye was intoxicated. Two separate breath tests indicated that her blood alcohol concentration was above 0.26 percent, more than three times the level deemed too drunk to drive. But was she in public? On Friday the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that she was not. "Paye cannot be guilty of public intoxication because she was not intoxicated in a public place," writes Justice Daryl Hecht in the unanimous opinion. To conclude otherwise, he observes, would lead to "absurd results."

Hecht notes that "Iowa is one of few states to criminalize the mere fact of intoxication." The relevant statute makes it a misdemeanor to "use or consume alcoholic liquor in any public place except premises covered by a liquor control license." Iowa defines a "public place" as "any place, building, or conveyance to which the public has or is permitted access." In 1991 the court ruled that a passenger in a car could not be charged with public intoxication, because the general public does not have access to a private vehicle, even one located on a public road. But 12 years later, the court concluded that the front steps and common areas of an apartment house counted as public places, reasoning that tenants should not have to put up with the drunken antics of their neighbors in parts of the building open to all residents.

In Pye's case, the court decided that single-family homes are more like cars than apartment buildings. It rejected the government's argument that the implied permission for salesmen, postal carriers, petition circulators, and charity collectors to approach and knock was enough to render Pye's porch a public place (although it allowed that a general invitation, such as advertising for a yard sale or an open house, might make the ban on public intoxication applicable). "If the front stairs of a single-family residence are always a public place," Justice Hecht notes, "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."

Hecht adds that reading the statute so broadly would penalize people for acting responsibly. "Holding the front steps of a single-family home are always a public place," he writes, "would mean any intoxicated person who responsibly secures a ride home from a sober designated driver could be arrested for and convicted of public intoxication because they traversed the stairs of their single-family house while intoxicated."

Aside from the definition of a public place, of course, you might wonder why mere intoxication should ever be illegal. As Hecht notes, "public intoxication statutes are not the only means of establishing consequences for unruly behavior by intoxicated persons," since "the legislature has enacted many other statutes that may apply to actions taken by rowdy and intoxicated individuals," such as laws against harassment and disturbing the peace. If someone is buzzed but not bothering anyone, why bother him?

[Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.]

NEXT: San Francisco Vs. Soft Drinks

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  1. Patience Pye. Just a wonderful name.

    1. Kinda like a girl I knew named Chastity if you know what I mean.

      1. Chastity *Pye*?

        1. No – Chastity and Patience are common stripper names

  2. Is it legal in Iowa to drink beer in your yard next to your wood chipper?

    1. No, that nets you a CUI.

    2. It gets you a subpoena

    3. You also have to deal with woodchipper forfeiture.

  3. Holy shit! Drinking on your own property is legal?! Blind hog, meet acorn!

    1. dog? Acorn? You have an odd experience of dogs, or possibly have just met some very large, very well behaved squirels.

      1. The best, arguably, pork in the world is Serrano Ham. Their diet consists primarily of acorns which imparts a very distinct taste in the meat. I’m sure that’s what he meant

  4. Also, though, if Iowa has Warrren Moon laws, they did her a favor of arresting her for a much lesser charge.

  5. So the cops weren’t at all bothered by the domestic violence bit?

    1. I’m shocked they didn’t mock the boyfriend for getting beat up by Pye.

      1. *This based upon prior actions and attitudes of police officers as a class of individuals and not personal preference.

    2. Women can’t commit domestic violence.


      1. Ooops, I forgot! How very cis white male of me. How DARE he assault her fist with his face? And it was probably the trauma of being protected from the consequences of her own drunkenness that drove her to drink in the first place. Or something to do with the patriarchy. Or something. Get the poor little dear into a support group this instant. And lock him up. Scum.

      2. Sir, kindly issue a trigger warning prior to your sexist declarations. We wouldn’t want anyone’s feelings hurt on here

    3. In my experience, when you call the cops because you’ve been the victim of a crime, the only thing they are interested in is busting you for a victimless crime.

      1. Well, that and putting on their tacticool gear and, hopefully, shooting a dog.

    4. I wondered that too – why the hell didn’t she get charged with domestic violence. Maybe the boyfriend refused to press charges. . . Although you would think the DA could bring charges regardless. . . .

  6. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  7. Did Little Jack Horner stick his finger in Ms. Pye? Just wondering….

    1. Pulled out a plum, as a matter of fact.

  8. This actually was a case for the Supreme Court of Iowa?

    Libertarian moments are everywhere!

  9. Nice choice of photos, Jacob.

    1. The alt text is good, too. 🙂

  10. Seems to me that assault is a more serious charge than public intoxication. I suppose if the guy had been shot, they would have charged her with vandalism or littering due to the blood spatter.

    1. Assault is a crime against another person, while public intoxication is a crime against the state.

      Which do you think the king cares about more, a crime against a peasant, or a crime against the crown?

  11. “Porch Drinking Is Not a Crime”

    I want to get this on a t-shirt.

    1. Skateboarders Porch drinkers unite!

    2. Porch Drinking – we’re taking that back!

  12. A win for decent humans not harming anyone by having a beer on their own property. That’s not something you see often these days. It’s usually one win after another for the prog-fascists which amounts to one loss after another for decent humans.

  13. The law in this case was interpreted by an individual possessing adept access to reason. Herein lies the fuel that flames my latent seething rage toward law in general. Legality through linguistics is inherently incapable of establishing regard for plurality unless the authority figure in a court of law is abnormally driven to empathize with his or her fellow human beings. I posit `abnormal` because systems of justice are generally communes for mini dictators with ultra-tight sphincters and immobilized thoughtfulness.

    1. Good morning, AC.

      1. Good morning, dear.

    2. “adept access to reason”
      “immobilized thoughtfulness”


    3. #porchmojitos

    4. Just out of curiosity, how many libertarian lawyers have you actually met face to face? Lawyers are the pupa stage that later develop into looter politicians who actually WANT their hand in someone else’s till.

      1. Hey, hey. I’m one of those LL’s. Or “ll’s” depending upon your flavor. No statist, I.

        The IJ folks have won more than their fair share of libertarian legal causes and I would respectfully suggest that a lot of criminal defense attorneys are civil libertarians at heart. You almost have to be to do the job well or for any length of time. Defending a complete scumbag? If the cops violated his Fourth Amendment rights (and they almost certainly did), I’ll defend that to the hilt. I don’t care if he possessed oodles of contraband substances – or (gulp) even if he killed someone. I hate that it comes up in those contexts, but I believe in the principle. It’s that important.

    5. AC’s stash must be out.

  14. “They THREW me into public!”

    1. +1 Tater Salad

  15. “We do not think the legislature intended Iowa law to be so heavy-handed.”


    “We do not think the legislature intended the ACA to be so heavy-handed.”

  16. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  17. “…you might wonder why mere intoxication should ever be illegal.”

    Because what happens inside our heads is like the Final Frontier to these statist fucks.

  18. Aside from the definition of a public place

    An honest definition would be limited to that which is publicly owned.

  19. If they can arrest you for DUI on your own property, why not this?

    I guess it must be that secret DUI clause in the constitution, same one that allows sobriety checkpoints.

  20. What the fuck else you gonna do in Iowa?

    1. Cow tipping is popular as I recall. But that usually involves alcohol so never mind.

      1. Do you still tip 20%?

  21. On the golf course I play there’s poker playing, betting on golf holes,drinking and driving ( golf carts ).Even taking a leak in the woods near a hole.A garden of unorganized crime.

  22. Gott in Himmel! Ve are descending into anarchy!

  23. Herbert Hoover was from Iowa. But even under the National Prohibition Amendment and Volstead Act it was perfectly legal (according to federal politically appointed judges) to drink in your home if, for example, a natural spring were to cause beer to bubble out of the floorboards. It was illegal to transport, produce or sell the Demon Rum and its demoniacal siblings. The 16th and 18th were the first amendments aimed at the destruction of individual rights an the enlargement of the powers of the Political State.

    1. Demon’s rum? Where a good a good man goes to whore?

      1. Find a girl named Chastity.

  24. Scratch that, I meant 13th and 16th… income tax and prohibition: same sponsors.

  25. Correction. The 16th and 18th. The 13th is the one that may someday ban military conscription. I swear I haven’t touched anything but water today.

    1. That is your problem ,not ours.

  26. You qoute the wrong part of the law Sullum. This is what she was charged under.

    “A person shall not be intoxicated or simulate intoxication in a public place.”

    So you can’t even pretend to be drunk in a public place. It really seems like you can’t even be drunk in a bar.

    1. Can you pretend to be a wood chipper of justice?

    2. “simulate intoxication in a public place.”

      Well, there goes my plans to star in August Osage County in Des Moines!

  27. How was this ever an issue? I have never heard of someone being arrested for public intoxication on their property since you have to be on PUBLIC property to be publicly intoxicated. According to the logic of the police, you could be arrested anywhere you are drinking since they make no distinction between public and private property.

  28. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……

  29. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

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