Written by attorney James Morris Balagia

Avoid a Public Intoxication Arrest by Erin Shinn & Jamie Balagia - the Law Offices of Jamie Balagia

Avoid an Arrest for Public Intoxication: Don’t be a Danger or Incite a Breach of Peace While Intoxicated: Erin Shinn and Jamie Balagia of the Law Office of Jamie Balagia

Think you’re safe drinking as much as you like during the football season if you have a designated driver or because you’re not going to get behind the wheel of a car yourself? Think again. You could get arrested for Public Intoxication (P.I.) if the police believe that you are “a danger to yourself or others" while in an intoxicated state in a public place.

While this charge is a Class C misdemeanor, which is essentially a ticket, you can still be taken to jail for a PI and be assessed with a fine of up to $500. Public Intoxication is a “Class C misdemeanor" which is punishable by fine only and can never result in a jail sentence. But you can be jailed for “Failure to Appear" if you violate your promise to appear before the Municipal or Justice of the Peace court to which your case is assigned.

If you smell like alcohol or admit to drinking, your behavior in public can get you arrested. You are not entitled to a breath test to prove you are not intoxicated if you are accused of P.I. If the police officer subjectively believes you are intoxicated, even if you are below the legal 0.08 limit you can be charged with P.I. The arrest standard has to do with the combination of being “intoxicated" and “endangering yourself or others". Be careful if you are riding home intoxicated as well. If the driver arrested, you are at risk of being arrested for P.I.

The other charge to be aware of if you are drinking is a Disorderly Conduct citation. Inhibitions lower after a few drinks, and you may find yourself getting out of control. There is a list of behaviors that, when done in public, constitute Disorderly Conduct, but several are more likely to happen when alcohol is involved. Watch your language, the volume of your voice, and your gestures to make sure they are not likely to be perceived as offensive enough to incite an immediate breach of peace (a fight). Refrain from fighting and flashing your genitals in public (mooning or urinating in public).

Disorderly Conduct is also a Class C misdemeanor that you can be arrested for and assessed up to a $500 fine. If you have had the misfortune of receiving three of these charges previously within the last two years (either PI, Disorderly Conduct or a combination), the charge can be enhanced to a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a jail term of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $2000. This is on the same level as a DWI and if convicted, you will not be able to “expunge" that arrest from your criminal history. That means potential employers will have access to that information prior to deciding whether or not to hire you.

What can start out as good clean fun can quickly escalate into a night in jail and a permanent criminal record. The primary way to protect yourself from either of these charges is to monitor the level of alcohol you are drinking and to stay in control of your actions. If you do find that you have had too much to drink, keep a low profile, or even better, find someone to take you out of a public place where your behavior can get you into trouble. If you get charged with any criminal offense, contact our office or go to for help.

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