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Public Intoxication – Drunk in Public

Drunk in public - Public intoxicationPublic Intoxication – A Definition

Public intoxication is generally understood to mean being intoxicated in a public place.  It could be any public place, such as a street, highway, or park area, but it could also apply to being in a theatre, restaurant, and so on, which, although open to the general public, is privately owned.

Public intoxication is sometimes called public drunkenness, and a person found to be publicly intoxicated is normally charged as a disorderly person, which is a misdemeanor.  There may be additional, more serious charges placed, however, depending on the nature of the intoxicant, the person’s behavior, and its consequences.

Applicable Laws

Laws prohibiting public intoxication exist on the books of states, as well as in the local ordinances of municipalities.  These laws and ordinances can vary in content and penalty, according to the jurisdiction.

Common Penalties

Depending on the jurisdiction and its applicable laws or ordinances, and depending on the nature of the person’s behavior, and nature and extent of intoxication, a person charged with public intoxication may be subject to a short jail sentence, and the posting of bail to ensure a court appearance later.  If found guilty, the penalty imposed may be probation or payment of a fine.

In addition, the person may be ordered to undergo treatment at an alcohol or drug treatment center or medical facility, or they may simply be confined to their home for a specified period of time.

If, however, the person has committed a more serious crime, such as assault, battery, stalking, sexual assault, etc., separate charges for these offenses would be laid, in addition to that of public intoxication.

Also, if the person has caused personal injury or damage to property, a civil action is likely to be filed against them for recovery of damages.

How Public Intoxication is Identified

 The general criterion for identifying an intoxicated person is in their appearance and behavior.  If a person is vomiting or urinating in public, for example, or showing signs of behavior that may endanger other persons or the person himself, or causing damage to property, or behaving in some other inappropriate manner, it may indicate a state of public intoxication, and is likely to be investigated further by police.

Public Intoxication Does Not Only Apply to Alcohol

A charge of public intoxication may also be applied to persons found to be under the influence of drugs.  As in cases of DWI/DUI, the drug may also be medication prescribed by a doctor, or even over-the-counter medications.  But unlike DWI/DUI charges, the person doesn’t have to be subjected to blood or urine tests.  The person’s behavior alone is generally enough to make a charge.

Of course, the possession and/or consumption of illegal drugs in public or private would normally subject a person to additional, far more serious charges.

Possible Defenses Against a Charge of Public Intoxication – Some Points to Consider

Did the arresting officer follow required procedures in accordance with law, such as the reading of the rights of the accused?

Have the authorities produced sufficient evidence to show that the person actually was intoxicated in a public place, or did the accused person only appear to be?

Was the accused person charged with public intoxication in a locality where there are no laws prohibiting public intoxication?  (Not all localities have laws prohibiting it).

Legal Help

Persons charged with public intoxication should always seek the legal advice of a qualified attorney, experienced in cases involving Public Intoxication.