What is Drunk in Public?
Drunk in Public or “Public Intoxication” is governed by §18.2-388 of the Virginia Code. The statute covers both public intoxication and profane cursing or swearing in public. A conviction is a Class 4 Misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $250. As a result, there is no jail time for a drunk in public conviction. Of course, if an individual is charged with drunk in public, that person will likely be transported to the Adult Detention Center and put in the “drunk tank” and released in the morning after sobering up. It can be a “sobering” experience for many.
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Drunk in Public Issues:
The two main issues presented with a drunk in public charge are was the person intoxicated and, if so, was that individual in a public place.Is the person intoxicated?
Unfortunately, courts have historically allowed a lot of discretion to the police and determining whether someone is intoxicated. After all, the Judge was not there and the officer has much more experience in dealing with individuals in an intoxicated state. Generally, the symptoms of intoxication are strong odor of alcohol, blood shot or glassy eyes, slurred speech, unsteady gait, trouble explaining what time or day it is and/or where they're coming from or headed, etc. Most often, the officer will breathalyze the individual on the street to clarify there is alcohol in the individual's system. This preliminary breath test is admissible at trial since it is not being used in a DUI investigation.
However, if a preliminary breath test was not done or was refused by the Defendant, the Commonwealth will face more difficulty in getting a conviction. The court will have to then focus on the individual's behavior. If there was no cursing or profane language and only an odor of alcohol and slurred speech, the Judge should dismiss the case.
The courts have held that public place is defined as a place in open view that is visible to the community. See Crislip v. Commonwealth, 554 S.E.2d 96, 37 Va. App. 66 (Va. App., 2001). Therefore, people have been found to be drunk in public on their own premises, such as if they're acting intoxicated on their front porch. Additionally, a passenger in a vehicle in an intoxicated state is considered drunk in public. Finally, an individual in a bar is in a public place and is, technically, in violation of their statute.
Hiring a Drunk in Public Lawyer:
While a drunk in public conviction carries no jail time, it is important to avoid such a conviction as it will show up on background checks. In today's world, employment is a necessity and you certainly don't want a job application coming down to you and someone else who does not have such a conviction on their record. In many counties, including Fairfax County, the drunk in public charge can be dismissed after doing community service with an agreement from the prosecutor. Be sure to hire a lawyer who is familiar with the local court procedures and, more importantly, is familiar with the prosecutors. If the charge is dismissed, you have no criminal conviction on your record and are also eligible for an expungement of the charge.