A night intended to be a fun night out with family or friends can turn into an evening in jail. A person who consumes too much alcohol in public can be arrested for public intoxication, also known as drunk in public or “DIP” for short. This offense can be found in Virginia Code § 18.2-388.
What The Commonwealth Must Prove
There are two elements that must be met to be charged with public intoxication. You must be in public, and you must be intoxicated. Simple enough, but the prosecutors still need to prove both elements.
Public means that you must be in a place where the public can reasonably see you. For example, you can be inside a bar, on the sidewalk outside a restaurant, or even outside your home. Although you may be on your private property when you are standing in your front lawn or on your front porch, if you are visible to neighbors, you are still considered to be in public for purposes of this offense.
Next, you have to be intoxicated. The police officer does not need to obtain a blood alcohol level in order for you to be deemed “intoxicated” enough to be charged with this offense. The officer will use other cues and circumstances surrounding the interaction to decide whether or not you are intoxicated. For example, the officer will observe your ability to stand, balance and walk properly, whether or not you are slurring your speech, or perhaps whether or not there is a strong odor of alcohol emanating from your person. These are simply a few examples of things the officer will look for during the interaction.
Public Intoxication is a Class 4 Misdemeanor in Virginia
A class 4 misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $250 fine. Therefore, there is no possibility of jail time. However, it is still a misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense. Although it seems as if there is a low threshold for arresting someone for public intoxication, there are many defenses to this charge. Therefore, it is important that you speak with an experienced attorney at Greenspun Shapiro PC if you are charged with public intoxication.