Public intoxication and drunk and disorderly charges are often used interchangeably. Both mean that a person was publicly drunk or under the influence of drugs. Typically, public intoxication is a misdemeanor offense, but if there are additional charges, such as criminal mischief, you could face stiffer penalties.
There are two basic elements involved in a public intoxication charge. First, the person must be intoxicated in a “public place.” What counts as a public place is generally up to the courts, as there is no standard definition. Some jurisdictions consider bars and restaurants to be public, for example, while others might consider them private property. Common areas of apartment complexes and streets in residential areas may also be public in some states.
Second, your behavior or demeanor must show clearly that you seem to be intoxicated. Under some state laws, you can be convicted even if you are not drunk. The mere appearance of being intoxicated or high on drugs may be enough for a conviction, which means that a blood alcohol content test may not be required.
Some jurisdictions also require you to be a threat to harm others to be guilty of public intoxication, such as by throwing objects or attempting to fight other people. This can also apply when people are a threat to themselves.
For example, if you are intoxicated, stumbling, and yelling at a public park, you could potentially face a public intoxication charge. If you are not drunk but are still yelling loudly and stumbling, you could still face charges. However, if you are intoxicated but calm and not disruptive, or if you are at home, this would likely not be considered public intoxication.
An accusation of public intoxication, especially if combined with another charge, such as disorderly conduct or criminal mischief, can have serious repercussions. Even though public intoxication is a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions, the penalties can remain on your criminal record for years to come. Possible punishment for this charge can range from fines to probation, community service, and even jail time. If you are convicted, many judges will also require you to attend an alcohol treatment facility.
Aggravating factors can cause sentences to be more severe. For example, if you already have a criminal record or you received a drunk and disorderly citation in the past, you could face a harsher sentence. In some states, a third offense is considered aggravated public intoxication and can result in a punishment of up to two years in prison.
There are, however, many defenses to public intoxication charges that you and your attorney can mount to combat them. Some examples are:
If you are charged with drunk and disorderly conduct, you may be able to fight the charge with the help of a criminal defense attorney who has experience fighting public intoxication charges. After discussing the details of your case, your attorney will know how to best advise you to proceed.
For some people, a solution might be entering into a plea agreement with the prosecutor to help remove the public intoxication charge from their record. In other circumstances, it might be worth constructing a strong defense against the charges to avoid a conviction altogether.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified public intoxication lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local public intoxication attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.