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Charges Dismissed For Waterloo Woman Convicted of Public Intoxication on Her Front Porch

Flickr / sharyn morrow
The Iowa Supreme Court says the front steps of a single-family home is a private space.

The Iowa Supreme Court says the front steps of a single-family home are not public space and therefore a woman in northeast Iowa cannot be charged with public intoxication.

In June 2013, Waterloo police answered a domestic disturbance 911 call. Patience Paye was in her home when officers arrived, but stepped onto her front porch to speak with police.

Though it was Paye who called 911, officers determined that she was an aggressor. A breath sample showed Paye’s blood-alcohol level to be 0.267.

Paye was charged with public intoxication and domestic assault. The assault charged was dismissed, but Paye was found guilty of public intoxication. As it was her second public intoxication offense, the conviction was a serious misdemeanor. 

Paye appealed, saying  the front steps of her home were private. The state argued the front stairs are always a public space.

But the Iowa Supreme Court sided with Paye, and reversed her conviction. Justices say while there is implied consent for public access, Paye can still restrict or deny entrance. Furthermore because Paye was inside her home until officers arrived she was not causing a disturbance to people outside the boundaries of her property. 

In its ruling the high court cited a 2003 opinion dealing with a similar question for apartment complexes. In State v. Booth the Iowa Supreme Court ruled an apartment's entrance and hallway were a public "thoroughfare" since no single tenant isable to bar access to these areas.