What You Need to Know About Fighting Public Intoxication Charges
Violating public intoxication laws or exhibiting drunk and disorderly conduct constitutes a misdemeanor offense in most states, and being found guilty can have serious repercussions for a person’s future. Here’s how to fight public intoxication charges.
Although laws differ from state to state, public intoxication charges generally involve three crucial elements:
- The defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol,
- The defendant’s behavior threatens the safety of themselves or others, AND
- The behavior occurred in a public place.
Oftentimes, police officers will make quick judgment calls in assessing a person’s behavior as drunk and disorderly without carefully considering the elements of the charge. This leaves opportunities to mount a sturdy legal defense by leveraging different angles against the necessary elements.
Why fight a public intoxication charge?
Public intoxication laws exist to foster a safe environment when inebriating substances are in use. If a defendant fundamentally believes that they posed no threat to the people around them, they should be willing to lobby for their innocence in court. These laws are not constraints on drinking; they are constraints on drinking irresponsibly.
Additionally, just because public intoxication is a misdemeanor does not mean that the stakes are low. Being found guilty of drunk and disorderly conduct can result in fines, jail time, and the reputational damage that comes with a mark on one’s criminal record. Even if a defendant does not see themselves as entirely innocent, contesting these charges can be worthwhile in preserving one’s future.
Strategies for Developing a Legal Defense
The first step in fighting a public intoxication charge is understanding the state laws that apply to your situation. Some states have stricter laws against public intoxication, and they might elevate certain instances of public drunkenness to aggravated public intoxication depending on the prior number of offenses committed by the accused. On the other hand, certain regions such as Nevada, Montana, Missouri, and the city of Milwaukee have no laws against public drunkenness. You can find articles online about selected states’ public intoxication laws.
Provided a defendant resides in a state that requires some form of the three crucial elements, there are different ways to disprove them and overturn the charge.
Potential Defense 1: Insufficient Inebriation
If the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove intoxication such as a breathalyzer test showing a BAC of 0.08% or greater, the accused can opt for the affirmative defense that there was insufficient inebriation to warrant charges. This makes it possible to explain any disorderly behavior as a result of excitement or a reaction to something else, but it also pits the word of the accused against that of an officer of the law. Keep in mind that some states only require the appearance of intoxication rather than actual intoxication.
Potential Defense 2: Varying Definitions of “Public” in Public Intoxication
Another primary defense against public intoxication charges involves disputing the public nature of the disorderly conduct. Different states have different definitions of “public,” but generally if the accused can show that they were on private property, then the charges fail without the third (public) element.
Potential Defense 3: Questioning the Legality of the Arrest
A final method of avoiding this misdemeanor casts suspicion on the legality of the arrest. This is a more technical defense, and an experienced criminal defense attorney is the most likely to successfully argue it. Her Lawyer offers many options of capable defense attorneys to overturn public intoxication charges, and you can schedule a free consultation today to learn more about your situation.