What Is Public Intoxication
Public intoxication is illegal in the US and is charged as a misdemeanor. The law does not penalize someone for walking home a little tipsy after a few drinks; it is designed to discipline belligerent drunks who pose a danger to themselves or others. Public intoxication applies to any controlled substance, most often it is drugs and alcohol.
Often being just drunk in public will not result in a public intoxication charge in California. A law enforcement officer will take you to a facility to sober up for 72 hours and then release you without a public intoxication charge. Someone under the influence of drugs or drugs and alcohol will be charged with public intoxication.
Elements of a Public Intoxication Charge
The prosecutor must prove the following three things in a public intoxication charge:
- The defendant was drunk, under the influence of a controlled substance, or both.
- The defendant was in a public place
- The defendant caused harm to another person or a disturbance
Someone cannot be charged with public intoxication if they are buzzed, tipsy, or a little high. The defendant must have been under the influence to the point where they were not acting like an ordinary person. Each state will have a different BAC guidelines for what constitutes public intoxication. In most states, the public intoxication BAC is 0.08% or higher.
Public Intoxication Defenses
If you have been charged with public intoxication, you need to seek the help of a lawyer. Public intoxication is a misdemeanor charge and can affect your criminal record as well as resulting in fines or probation.
Here are some of the common defenses against a public intoxication charge. Your lawyer will help you to determine the best one for your circumstances.
- Not drunk – One of the most common defenses is that you were not drunk and not acting drunk in public. The burden of proof is on the defendant, so you would need to present evidence to prove this public intoxication defense. You would need to show that you were just excited for a justifiable reason.
- You were not in public – You cannot be charged for public intoxication if you were on private property at the time. Your attorney will have to prove that either the law enforcement officers cited you on private property or that they asked you to step into a public space and then cited you.
- Not a crime – Not all states and jurisdictions criminalize public intoxication. You cannot be charged with public intoxication if you were drunk in a jurisdiction that does not outlaw public intoxication. You would have to prove that you were in a jurisdiction where it is not illegal.