Drunk in Public

In Virginia, it is a Class 4 misdemeanor for a person to appear in public, intoxicated.  A Class 4 misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to $250.00. Although there is no possibility of jail time, the charge is still a criminal offense. Virginia Code Section 18.2-388 proscribes this behavior. In order to sustain a conviction for a charge of 18.2-388, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was (1) intoxicated (2) while being in public.

“Intoxication” 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. Virginia Code Section 4.1-100. Officers will use clues of impairment as evidence that you were intoxicated (think red, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcoholic beverage, slurred speech, trouble balancing).

With respect to the “public” element, courts have found that a person is “in public” for purposes of this statute when in a place in open view, visible to the community. This could include a person’s private property. Crislip v. Commonwealth, 37 Va. App. 66 (2001). Courts have also found that “public” is synonymous with “in a public place”… and is a place where the public has a right to do and to be. Commonwealth v. Osterhoudt, 20 Va. Cir. 78 (1990).

Although the elements seem simple, there are defenses to this charge.  It is important to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a drunk in public in Virginia.

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