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What Is Public Intoxication?

Public intoxication is a criminal offense most often associated with public drunkenness or creating a scene in public while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Public intoxication may be attached to other crimes such as assault or battery, lewd and lascivious conduct, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace.

Is Public Intoxication a Crime?

Public intoxication is a crime in most jurisdictions. Although many individuals enter the public sphere after consuming alcohol or other recreational drugs, aberrant or unwanted behavior is usually an instigating or aggravating factor in public intoxication charges.

However, to qualify as criminal, there must be proof of intoxication by a field test, blood screen or breathalyzer, in addition to the action taking place in public, as well as, in most cases, creating a disturbance or danger.

Is Public Intoxication a Misdemeanor?

Public intoxication is almost always classified as a misdemeanor, though in some states, first responders take the intoxicated individual to a treatment facility rather than into custody.

How Much is a Public Intoxication Fine?

Both fines and jail time are penalties of a public intoxication conviction, largely depending on the severity of the offense and the jurisdiction.

In some states, for example, if you are convicted of public intoxication, you could face a penalty of up to one year in jail as well as a fine of no more than $1,000. The punishment for public intoxication can be a bit more lenient and only requiring a fine of up to $500 if convicted.

Can a Public Intoxication Charge Be Dropped?

Public intoxication charges can be dropped for a variety of reasons such as mistakes made on the part of the arresting officer(s), insufficient evidence to proceed to court or revelation of new information or evidence, but are more frequently contested in court.

Charges might also be dropped if an arresting officer orders you out of a private residence into public and then arrests you for public intoxication. Further, if you are exhibiting strange or aggravating behavior while in public as a reaction to properly administered prescription drugs or a drug administered directly by a medical professional such as a painkiller by a dentist or doctor, public intoxication charges could be dropped.

Defenses for Public Intoxication

Several defenses are available if you have been accused of public intoxication. A lack of any harmful or aberrant behavior can be a successful defense if you did not outwardly display any belligerent or untoward behavior.

Depending on the laws in your area, your attorney may use one of several other possible defenses for public intoxication charges:

  • Not intoxicated: a person charged with public intoxication may claim that he was not intoxicated at the time of the arrest.
  • No harm: a person charged with public intoxication may claim that he did not cause a disturbance or harm to himself or others.
  • Not a public place: a person charged with public intoxication may claim that he was not in a public place at the time of the arrest or that he was involuntarily in a public place at the time of the arrest.
  • Prescription medication: a person charged with public intoxication may claim that he was under the influence of prescribed medication at the time of the arrest.

What Does a Public Intoxication Attorney Do?

If you are facing a public intoxication offense, it would be wise to secure the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney for a variety of reasons. Despite being classified as misdemeanor charges in most states, public intoxication charges will remain on your criminal record if you are convicted of the offense.

Not only can a skilled defense attorney increase your chances of avoiding conviction by creating a strong case on your behalf, but they may be able to help create a stronger argument to present to the court.

Why Contacting a Public Intoxication Defense Attorney Is Important

Since public intoxication is a misdemeanor offense, a conviction for public intoxication will stay on your record and will show up on any background checks when you apply for a professional license or rental application. Because of this, it is very important that you find an experienced criminal defense lawyer with a good understanding of the laws regarding public intoxication in the jurisdiction in which you have been charged.

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