Garcia and Salazar were both members of the Vatos Locos gang until Salazar defected. Salazar and his uncle were in a car driving in downtown Goshen. While they were stopped at an intersection, a vehicle drove up beside them. Garcia was in the passenger seat and fired multiple bullets into Salazar’s vehicle. The State charged Garcia with felony criminal recklessness. After the presentation of evidence at Garcia’s jury trial, his counsel moved for a directed verdict arguing that the vehicle was not a “place where people are likely to gather” as required under the criminal recklessness statute. The trial court denied Garcia’s motion and the jury found him guilty. The trial court sentenced Garcia to an aggregate sentence of 10 years with 2 years suspended to probation. Garcia appealed.
On appeal, the Indiana Court of appeals found that Indiana law provides that “a person who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally performs … an act that creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person … commits criminal recklessness.” The offense is a Class C felony if “it is committed by shooting a firearm into an inhabited dwelling or other building or place where people are likely to gather.” The State alleged in the charging information that the “occupied motor vehicle” was a place where people were likely to gather. Garcia argues that a vehicle is not a “place” and that, even if it is a “place,” it is not a “place where people are likely to gather.” The interpretation of a statute is a question of law reserved for the courts. A statute whose language is clear and unambiguous is not subject to judicial interpretation. If, however, the statute is ambiguous, the court must determine the legislative intent and interpret the statute accordingly. To determine legislative intent, we look to the plain language of the statute and attribute the common, ordinary meaning to terms found in everyday speech.
Based upon the above, the court noted that the statute does not define a “place where people are likely to gather,” and our courts have not had the opportunity to address this issue. The word “place” has a broad definition, including a bounded area; a portion of space, a building or an area set aside for a specified purpose, and a space in which one person, such as a passenger, can sit or stand. Nothing in the common ordinary meaning of “place” would seem to exclude a vehicle as a “place.” In support of his argument, Garcia notes that Indiana Code, which addresses the offenses of visiting or maintaining a common nuisance, refers to a building, structure, vehicle, or other place. Garcia argues that, based on that statutory language, the legislature does not intend to include a vehicle as a place. The State correctly notes that the Indiana Code actually shows the opposite, because a vehicle is listed along with building, structure, or other place, indicating that a vehicle is also a place. The appellate court then found that a vehicle can be a “place” as contemplated by the criminal recklessness statute. Further, we have no difficulty holding that a vehicle can be a place where people are likely to gather. A vehicle, which can transport people, is clearly a location where people could congregate and gather. We conclude that a vehicle can be unambiguously included as a place where people are likely to gather.” As a result, the trial court properly denied Garcia’s motion for directed verdict and upheld his conviction. 979 N.E.2d 156