In the state of Virginia, it is illegal to be intoxicated by alcohol or drugs in public. According to Virginia Code section 18.2-388, “If any person profanely curses or swears or is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”
Public intoxication in Virginia is defined as “a condition in which a person has drunk enough alcoholic beverages to observably affect his manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior.” Although this is a broad definition, the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that the odor of alcohol on one's breath is insufficient in proving intoxication.
However, under Virginia law, police do not have to give you a breath test to determine your level of intoxication. Exhibiting intoxicated behavior is enough for you to be considered “drunk in public.” A prosecutor must prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a person to be convicted of public intoxication: 1) the individual was in public, and 2) the individual was intoxicated.
Penalties for Public Intoxication
Instead of arresting you for the offense, police might assist you to an approved treatment center, or take you into protective custody if you are incapacitated. Public intoxication is punishable by a fine of up to $250. However, if you have previous convictions for certain alcohol or drug-related crimes, you might face a fine of up to $2,500, jail time up to 1 year, or both. It is important to note that public intoxication is a criminal offense, not a civil offense like a traffic ticket. By paying the fine, you are admitting to a crime and the conviction will remain on your record for life.
Other alcohol-related issues can potentially impact your case. For example, a drunken brawl that results in bodily injury may result in assault charges in addition to public intoxication. A drunk driving incident, although in public, can be charged as a DUI. An experienced attorney, like Andrew J. Cornick, can work on your behalf to help build your defense against other potential charges.
Have you been charged with public intoxication? Call (540) 827-4446 for a free case evaluation from a Fredericksburg criminal defense attorney.