Public intoxication, also known as disorderly intoxication, can lead to criminal charges. It's important to note that it's possible to be charged with public intoxication even if you're in an area that is designated for drinking. For example, you're legally allowed to purchase and consume beer at a baseball game, but that doesn't give you the right to become noticeably intoxicated or to become disruptive toward others. This is especially true if you're still under the influence when it's time to leave the stadium.
Florida's Legal Definition of Public Intoxication
Per Florida Statutes Title XLVI, Chapter 856, a disorderly intoxication or public intoxication charge can stem from drunkenness, open house parties, loitering, prowling and desertion.
More specifically, the law states that a person can be charged with public intoxication for one of two reasons:
1. Endangering another person's safety or the safety of anyone's property as the result of being intoxicated.
2. Causing a public disturbance due to being intoxicated or drinking an alcoholic beverage in any public place or conveyance.
In other words, you don't even have to be intoxicated to be charged with public intoxication. As long as there's an alcoholic beverage in your possession, you're in public and you've done anything that can be considered a public disturbance, you could be facing legal charges.
Penalties for Public Intoxication
First or Second Offense: Public intoxication can lead to a Second Degree Misdemeanor charge. If convicted, the law provides the presiding judge with the option to imprison the accused for up to 60 days. Additionally, a fine of up to $500 may be assessed.
Habitual Offender: The term habitual offender is legally defined in Florida as someone who faces three or more charges for the same crime within a 12-month period. These individuals can be charged with another Second Degree Misdemeanor, and they could also be committed for 60 days to a rehabilitation or treatment facility.
Alternative to Arrest
Florida police officers are not legally required to arrest someone who is in violation of the public intoxication law. Instead, they can choose between incarceration and one of their two other options:
1. Send the intoxicated person home.
2. Arrange transportation to a private or public health facility.
If a peace officer opts not to incarcerate the person in question, then the intoxicated individual may be required to prepay for the commercial transportation that is used to take them home or to an appropriate facility.
Florida law keeps all basic public intoxication charges at a Second Degree Misdemeanor level. However, you can end up dealing with additional charges based on the circumstances. For example, if you become violent during the public intoxication incident, you may be charged with disorderly conduct. Depending on the severity of the situation, a disorderly conduct conviction could lead to a prison sentence of up to one year and fines of up to $500.
Let Us Represent Your Case
Do you need help with a public intoxication charge? Contact our team of experienced, top-rated Florida criminal defense attorneys at (888) 484-5057.