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Virginia Drunk in Public Definition

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 being drinking enough to observably affect your “manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior”. Additionally, the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled the odor of alcohol as insufficient evidence 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: 1) the individual was in public, and 2) the individual was intoxicated.

Penalties for Public Intoxication

If charged with public intoxication you may receive the option to attend an approved treatment center or held in custody until sober. Public intoxication is punishable by up to $250 in fines, but if you have previous convictions you may face up to $2.5k in fines &/or up to 1 year in jail.

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) 386-0204 for a free case evaluation from a Fredericksburg criminal defense attorney.