Facing a Public Intoxication Charge
While it might not be pretty, being drunk in public (public intoxication) doesn’t seem as though it should be a crime worthy of arrest, but as you’ll hear from any criminal attorney, it is. And if you’re convicted of this misdemeanor, you’ll have the offense on your permanent record. There will also be punishments that can include fines, jail time, probation, community service, etc.
For the record, public intoxication doesn’t just refer to alcohol, but it also includes any drugs, prescription, over-the-counter, or even glue or aerosol cans. When a person is under the influence of any of these to the point of being a danger to him/herself or others, the result can be an arrest for public intoxication. You might be thinking: “How could I be a danger? I was just having fun.” But prosecution will argue that being publicly intoxicated makes you vulnerable to robbery, battery, drunk driving, or even your own clumsiness or lack of awareness, which could result in a fall or walking into traffic. And you could be a danger to others if you become belligerent or start a fight. It should be noted that if your behavior is offensive to those around you, or if your behavior obstructs the use of public property, this can also be cause for arrest.
Once you’re arrested for public intoxication, you’ll either spend time in jail pending bail or be released to a responsible adult. Either way, you’ll be expected in court to face the charges at a later date. As with any charge, you will be presumed innocent and remain so unless prosecution can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Very often, your attorney can make appearances on your behalf, so that you don’t have to face the court or take time off from work.
Pleading Guilty or No Contest
If you choose to plead guilty to the charge, you may be granted an uncontested hearing with the judge. If you explain that you’d like to avoid a public intoxication conviction on your record, you may be granted an informal diversion. If you are, you will be placed on probation for up to 180 days, after which the complaint will be dismissed with a note that no conviction occurred; the arrest, however, will remain on your record. If you’re granted an informal diversion, you’ll probably also have to perform community service and attend an appropriate substance abuse program.
Pleading Not Guilty
If you want to keep your record completely clear, you’ll have to plead not guilty, which will likely require an attorney’s assistance. Possible defenses your attorney might use include:
- You were lured from your private property—your home or hotel room, for example—for the purposes of making a public intoxication arrest;
- Sobriety tests administered at the time of arrest weren’t sufficient to determine your intoxication;
- The substances you took are part of your medical treatment; and
- You did not willfully ingest the substances, i.e., your drink was spiked.
If you’re concerned about your “drunk in public” arrest and would like to consult with an experienced attorney about the possibility of a not guilty charge, contact the Legacy Counsel.