Public intoxication charges, often called being "drunk and disorderly," is a legal charge alleging that a person is visibly drunk or under the influence of drugs in public. It is usually a misdemeanor crime under state and local law.
Public intoxication laws exist to prevent people from disturbing others in public and to remove people who appear to be unable to stop themselves from hurting themselves or others.
Public Intoxication: Basic Elements of the Criminal Charge
By definition, a public intoxication charge usually has a number of elements, all of which must be met, including:
1. You appear or seem to be;
2. Drunk or intoxicated; and
3. You are in public.
Many states also require prosecutors to prove that you seem so out of control that you don't appear to be able to take care of yourself, or that you present a threat to the safety of others.
If you walk out of a bar or restaurant appearing tipsy, boisterous, behaving in a lewd manner, or swearing, there is a good chance that you may be stopped by the local police on public intoxication charges.
In many states, public intoxication offenses do not even require that you are drunk to be convicted of the charge. You simply have to appear drunk or high on drugs, even if that's not the case.
Your behavior and demeanor will be a key component of the charges.
Another key element of any public intoxication charge is that you must actually be in public. What makes a place public? Is it located on government owned property? Is it a private facility where people gather, like a mall or sports stadium, or is it on private property that you own and out-of-view of your neighbors?
There is no single legal definition of a public place. Determining the public or private nature of the place where you received a public intoxication charge is the type of issue that courts examine in public intoxication cases.
Public Intoxication: Defenses and Exceptions
If you are accused of being publicly intoxicated, your lawyer may be able to raise legal defenses. Here are some of the defenses to public intoxication charges:
- You Are Not Drunk And Are Not Acting Drunk
An affirmative defense to charges of being drunk and disorderly is that you were not actually behaving in a drunken manner in public. You may claim your loud behavior was due to enthusiasm over a promotion or excitement that your team won a sports contest. The burden of proving this defense remains on the person accused of the crime.
- Public Intoxication Is Not A Crime Where You Are Cited
Some communities do not have laws against public intoxication. States like Nevada, Montana, and Missouri do not criminalize being drunk in public. The city of Milwaukee allows people to be drunk in public, although other municipalities in Wisconsin outlaw public drunkenness.
- You Are Cited for Public Intoxication While In A Private Place
Being convicted of public drunkenness charge requires that you are in public. If you are not in public, then an essential element of the offense is missing. If a police officer orders you to come out into a public place and then cites you for public intoxication, you may be able to raise this defense.
Public Intoxication Law Charges - Your Legal Rights
If you or a loved one experienced are charged with being publicly intoxicated or drunk and disorderly, you may be able to defend and fight the charge in court.
Some of the legal factors that a public intoxication defense attorney can review with you include:
1. Whether you or your loved ones, given the particular facts of your case, actually violated city or state law;
2. Whether the arresting police or law enforcement officer followed the law;
3. Whether your conduct did, or did not, constitute a criminal violation.
Get Legal Help
Public intoxication and DUI convictions don't typically result in a long jail sentence, but the damage to your reputation can be difficult to mend and can haunt you for years to come. The assistance of a qualified criminal defense attorney will help try to eliminate or minimize the impact of these charges on your life. Schedule a free case review to discuss your case with a local attorney.