It may sound like common sense, but at least three times a year a client of mine appears in court either intoxicated or with the smell of alcohol on his or her breath.
Attending court with either the smell of alcoholic beverage on your breath or intoxicated is a serious mistake. It shows disrespect to the entire legal system and the presiding judge.
The following can happen if you drink before attending court:
- You can be held in contempt of court if a deputy or bailiff discovers that you are intoxicated. When held in contempt, you can be sent to jail for up to twenty (20) days.
- Your attorney cannot settle your case when his or her client is intoxicated. Any plea must be entered into "freely and voluntarily." A person under the influence of alcohol or drugs cannot make an informed decision about their case. As a result, if you have entered a plea and later found to be impaired, the judge will void the plea because it was not entered into with your full faculties.
- Prosecutors can withdraw any plea offer before the completion of a person's case. Since most of our client's cases involve alcohol or drugs, most prosecutors will revoke a favorable plea agreement if someone attends court intoxicated.
- You may incur additional legal fees if your attorney is forced to attend court again or, in a worst-case scenario, have to start the case over.
- Probation officers may treat you differently if you have attended court intoxicated. Making a bad impression in court can lead to further scrutiny while on probation.
- You could be charged with driving under the influence. Years ago, I saw a person arrested for DUI while sitting in court in Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court. He was found impaired in the courtroom. A sharp deputy sheriff asked him how he got to court. Once he said that he drove, he was arrested for a DUI.
I am sure I have left off things that can happen if you drink before attending court. The point is that anyone in a courtroom already is dealing with a legal problem. Do not make things worse by giving yourself another problem. Do not drink before attending court.