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Defenses to Public Intoxication

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What is Public Intoxication?

Public intoxication is a type of criminal charge alleging that a person is visibly intoxicated, drunk, or under the influence of drugs in a public place.  Public intoxication, or public drunkenness, is considered a misdemeanor under most state and local laws, and is usually adjudicated in community court.

Public intoxication statutes serve to prevent persons from causing harm, injury, or disturbances to the public.  A person does not actually need to consume the alcohol in public to be charged with this crime; it is enough if the person simply appears in public while obviously or visibly drunk. 

The crime of public intoxication is related to a host of other criminal and traffic charges, including: disturbing the peace, breach of the peace and disorderly conduct.

Are there any Defenses to Public Intoxication Charges?

Yes- if you are facing public intoxication charges, you may have a number of defenses available to you.  Some of these defenses may include:

  • Public intoxication is not a crime in your area:  Some states do not have public intoxication statutes.  Some of these states include Nevada, Missouri, and Montana
  • You were neither drunk nor disorderly:  Police may often mistake overly enthusiastic behavior for drunkenness.  This is common for example during sporting events. 
  • You wrongfully received a citation while in a private area:  Oftentimes the biggest issue with public drunkenness charges is the definition of “public place”.  You may have a defense if you were not actually in a public place when cited.  Also, a police officer cannot order you to enter a public area, and then issue you a citation for public drunkenness.  

Be sure to take note of the circumstances you were under when you were issued a public drunkenness citation.  You may wish to record the exact time, date, and location of the incident.  It is very helpful to have witness testimony verifying the details of your case.

Do I need a Lawyer for Public Intoxication charges?

You may wish to consult with a criminal lawyer if you are being charged with public drunkenness.  Your attorney can examine the facts surrounding your charges to determine if you have a defense.  Public intoxication and other types of public disturbance laws can vary widely according to state. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-08-2015 01:50 PM PDT

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