An Overview of Georgia’s Public Intoxication Laws

Depending on the state, public intoxication can result in fines or imprisonment for the accused person. Here’s all you need to know about public intoxication in Georgia.

Public intoxication is a misdemeanor charge in Georgia punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and a year in jail. To be charged with public intoxication, the intoxicated defendant must engage in boisterous behavior, commit indecent acts, or speak in a loud or vulgar way while in a public place or private residence. Driving under the influence, using illegal drugs, assaulting another person, or destroying property are separate charges related to public intoxication.

What is public intoxication?

To be charged for public intoxication under Georgia law, a person must “appear in an intoxicated condition” in public or another person’s private residence. The intoxicated person must exhibit disruptive behavior like using profanity, appearing indecent, or being boisterous. Publicly drunk people are not committing a crime unless they demonstrate disorderly conduct.

A public place is any location where anyone other than the defendant’s family or household can reasonably witness the defendant’s disruptive behavior. The defendant is still liable even if the other person invited the defendant to their house.

Public Intoxication Laws and Penalties in Georgia

Public intoxication is a misdemeanor in Georgia. Misdemeanor penalties include up to $1,000 in fines and a year in jail. The judge may alternatively sentence the defendant to probation, community service, or an alcohol awareness class.

Related: Public Intoxication Laws By State

Prosecutors must prove the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of using loud, profane, vulgar, or unbecoming language while publicly intoxicated. Severe stupor or sleep is not enough to charge a person with a public intoxication misdemeanor regardless of their inebriation level.

Police officers may detain someone if they reasonably suspect the person was acting disruptively while intoxicated. The encounter may result in arrest if the person is uncooperative or continues to show boisterous behavior. Once in court, the judge will rely mainly on police testimony unless other witnesses are present. The defendant’s sentence will depend on the severity of the disruption and prior criminal history.

Local ordinances may set different requirements for public intoxication arrests. Some municipalities and counties can eliminate the need for indecent behavior to arrest a person for public intoxication.

Georgia law specifies punishments for other offenses related to public intoxication. The “Pedestrian Under the Influence” law bars intoxicated pedestrians from walking on a roadway or shoulder of a roadway. The Pedestrian Under the Influence law is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $500.

People under 18 caught with alcohol can face additional charges under the “Minors in Possession of Alcohol” law. Police officers can still arrest minors if they consumed alcohol but did not possess it. A violation of the Minors in Possession of Alcohol law is a misdemeanor punishable by driver’s license suspension, a maximum fine of $300, and six months in jail.

Defenses to Public Intoxication Charges

Defendants accused of public intoxication can argue they were not intoxicated during the arrest. Defendants usually need to provide proof they were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol to fight against the police officer’s testimony. A blood alcohol test taken around the arrest can significantly aid the defendant’s case.

Related: Public Defender vs Private Attorney: Who Should Protect Me?

Even if the defendant can disprove intoxication, they can still face public indecency charges. Defendants can provide witnesses to testify they were not being boisterous or indecent.

Proving the offense was not in a public place can help dismiss the charges. The defendant can claim they were involuntarily in a public place when a police officer ordered them to leave their home.

FAQs About Public Intoxication in Georgia

What if I committed assault or property damage while publicly intoxicated?

Getting into a fight outside a bar or destroying property inside another person’s home can result in charges separate from public intoxication. Defendants can face a “Driving Under the Influence” charge if they decide to drive home while drunk or on drugs. Other laws in Georgia apply to the use of illegal drugs.

Can I be charged for public intoxication on my property?

A police officer can charge the defendant with public intoxication while on their property if people outside the defendant’s household or family saw the defendant exhibiting inappropriate behavior. For example, an intoxicated defendant yelling at a neighbor on the defendant’s driveway can still face misdemeanor charges.

Can a public intoxication misdemeanor be expunged from my record?

The 2021 Senate bill 288 allows the expunction of certain misdemeanors in Georgia. Courts do not expunge severe misdemeanors like DUIs or sexual battery. Defendants eligible to expunge an intoxication misdemeanor must have fulfilled their sentence and cannot have another conviction.

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