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How Serious is a Public Intoxication Charge?

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People who are visibly under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, while in public, run the risk of being charged with a “public intoxication charge” (often related to disorderly conduct charges). In most states, a public intoxication charge is a misdemeanor offense. States have laws in place to keep intoxicated individuals from disturbing others, or from harming themselves or others while under the influence. Those who break these laws are frequently are charged with public intoxication.

Laws Against Public Intoxication

Nearly every state has laws in place that make it a crime to be in public while intoxicated. Some states laws require that disruptive behavior be present (disorderly conduct) in order for a person to be charged. Others simply require that a person acts in a disruptive manner in which they seem like a threat to the general public.

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What Constitutes Public Intoxication?

Each case will differ from others, but there are some common elements that define public intoxication. If a person appears drunk or intoxicated in a public place they can be charged with public intoxication. Some states are stricter than others requiring the individual to simply appear as if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to be charged.

Some states require that a prosecutor be able to prove that a person was out of control, to the point that they weren’t able to properly take care of themselves or that they were presenting a threat to those around them.

You Must Be In Public

A public intoxication charge requires that the person charged was actually in public at the time of the offense. So when is a location officially considered “public”? There isn’t actually a single definition of a public place. It may be a government owned property or a private facility where people from the community gather. The courts will consider the location when they examine each public intoxication case individually.

Possible Punishment

The typical punishment for public intoxication include fines, community service, probation, alcohol education programs, and possible jail sentencing or some combination of the above, depending on severity and the court’s ultimate decision. Jail sentences can usually be avoided and are generally pretty short when compared to other offenses.

Possible Exceptions and Defenses

If you’ve been charged with a public intoxication, your lawyer may be able to assist you raising legal defenses against the charge which you likely may not be able to defend yourself against without some legal expertise. Some possible defenses may include:

-You were cited for public intoxication when you were actually in a private place.

-Public intoxication is not actually a crime in the area for which you were cited.

-You weren’t actually drunk or under the influence of drugs, nor were you acting as if you were.

If you hire a professional San Diego criminal defense attorney who has plenty of experience handling public intoxication cases, they can really help you out in either significantly lessening the punishment for your public intoxication, or actually have the case dismissed altogether. It’s important that you seek a San Diego criminal defense attorney who you feel comfortable with and who has the knowledge to handle your case in court in your defense.