WATERLOO | Hot on the heels of a high court ruling that a person can be drunk on the front steps of their home, the Iowa Court of Appeals tossed the conviction of a Waterloo man accused of being drunk at a hospital.
According to court records, Cicero McGee was found passed out in a grassy area near Vermont Street in August 2013 and was taken by ambulance to Covenant Medical Center. When he apparently woke up and became argumentative with medical staff, Waterloo police were called.
Officers arrested McGee for public intoxication and disorderly conduct after noticing his slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, according to records.
McGee pleaded guilty, and the disorderly conduct charge was dismissed. But he later appealed, and on Wednesday, the Court of Appeals vacated his conviction and remanded the case to district court.
The appellate court said the facts of the case didn’t appear to support the public intoxication charge and found McGee's attorney was ineffective for allowing him to plead guilty.
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“Even if the hospital is a public place, McGee was not there voluntarily and thus did not have the required general intent to violate the statute,” said the opinion, written by Chief Judge David Danilson following consideration by a three-judge panel.
“McGee was brought to the hospital by emergency personnel -- possibly even without his knowledge,” the opinion continued.
The ruling hearkened back to a June Iowa Supreme Court opinion -- based on another Waterloo case -- that overturned a woman’s public intoxication conviction because her front steps weren’t public property. It noted that in McGee’s case, there was no evidence whose lawn he had originally been found on.
“Moreover, the fact McGee was presumably exposed to public view while he was passed out in the grass is not in and of itself a violation,” the ruling states.
The move gives prosecutors a chance to make a further showing.