Have You Been Charged With Public Drunkenness in Georgia?
Have You Been Arrested for Public Drunkenness in Georgia?
Public Drunkenness is a more common occurrence than most people think. Many times it happens when a person does the "right thing" and decided not to drive their vehicle. Even if you have the foresight to avoid getting behind the wheel after a night out drinking, you can still face charges of Public Drunkenness in the state of Georgia. Public Intoxication is generally characterized by loud or disruptive behavior or behavior that interferes with other people's enjoyment of public spaces. This can include yelling, using loud, profane language, tearing down or destroying other people's property, and running in the streets.
An arrest does not mean you are Guilty or must face life-long legal consequences. Richard Lawson has been handling alcohol and drug related offenses for more than 25 years. As a Former Prosecutor he knows how to defend people and save their future. You can read his reviews on AVVO. You will clearly see he has devoted his entire life to helping people.
Public Drunkenness Defined Under Georgia Law
O.C.G.A. § 16-11-41(a) Public Drunkenness:
A person who shall be and appear in an intoxicated condition in any public place or within the curtilage of any private residence not his own other than by invitation of the owner or lawful occupant, which condition is made manifest by boisterousness, by indecent condition or act, or by vulgar, profane, loud, or unbecoming language, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Simply being intoxicated and in a public place is not enough to be charged with Public Drunk. Your behavior must be such that your intoxication was made known to others around you by disorderly or disruptive, or otherwise obnoxious acts or even just loud, offensive language. If a law enforcement officer finds you asleep in your car in a public place, even if you are heavily intoxicated, a charge of Public Intoxication would be improper. “…the intoxication must be made manifest by indecent act or unbecoming language. Extreme stupor or sleep is not a violation of the law.” Moore v. State, 155 Ga.App. 299 (1980).
If you are approached by law enforcement officers while in public, you are free to disregard them to some extent and continue on your way. “Police officers may approach citizens, ask for identification, and freely question the citizen without any basis or belief that the citizen is involved in criminal activity, as long as the officers do not detain the citizen or create the impression that the citizen may not leave. … So long as a reasonable person would feel free to disregard the police and go about his business, the encounter is consensual and no reasonable suspicion is required.” White v. State, 310 Ga. App. 386 (2011). If you are not stopped while driving or riding as a passenger in a vehicle you are not required to answer any questions asked by an officer.
If the officer has reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, however, he may choose to detain you briefly to determine whether a crime has actually been committed. In the case of Public Drunk, the officer must believe you are intoxicated and that you have also acted in a disruptive manner or used “vulgar, profane, loud, or unbecoming language.” O.C.G.A. § 16-11-41(a).
In many cases, an encounter with police officers is escalated to an arrest for Public Intoxication when you are uncooperative, aggressive, vulgar, or argue with the officers. If you then resist arrest or obstruct an investigation, you may face further charges with even more severe penalties.
While the burden of proof required to arrest is low, the State must still prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were acting in a way that violated the statute. In the case of Public Intoxication, the State will generally rely on the police officer's testimony of what occurred the night of the arrest, unless there were other witnesses. Testimony tending to show that you were yelling, arguing, fighting, or generally acting out in public will likely be sufficient to convict. The likely sentence will be dependent on the circumstances of your case and any past criminal convictions.
The maximum punishment for a misdemeanor charge of Public Intoxication in Georgia is up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $1,000. The sentencing judge has the discretion, though, to sentence you to a period of probation instead of any jail time, as well as some combination of a fine, community service, or an alcohol awareness class.
County and City Ordinances Against Public Intoxication and Public Drunkenness:
In addition the state law against Public Drunkenness, many municipalities and counties enact local ordinances that criminalize similar behavior. You should make yourself aware of any specific acts or behaviors prohibited in your city. Local Ordinances can strip away the requirement that the arrested person act in an indecent condition or act, or by vulgar, profane, loud, or unbecoming language. Local ordinances can simply make being impaired and in public the crime in and of itself.
Police Encounters the Lead People to be Charged with Public Drunk in Georgia:
In the case of a Georgia DUI stop, a passenger may risk being arrested for Public Intoxication if the passenger gets out of the stopped vehicle to interfere. A passenger should never get out of the vehicle during a stop unless directed to by the officer. Many times a passenger is a friend or family member who feels protective of the person being investigated, but getting out of the vehicle can make the situation worse for everyone involved.
If the officer is conducting a Georgia DUI investigation, the officer will usually instruct the passenger to remain in the vehicle, and if the passenger attempts to get out, the officer will typically warn the person to get back in the car. If the passenger gets out of the car again and starts to ask questions, argue, or otherwise interfere the officer may place the passenger under arrest for any number of charges including Public Intoxication if the investigation was taking place in a public place, Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer – which can be a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the circumstances of the arrest, and Disorderly Conduct.
Related Offenses Such As Pedestrian Under the Influence, Under Age Possession of Alcohol, and Disorderly Conduct:
Being drunk in a public place can not only cause a public disturbance, but can also endanger you and others around you. In addition to the charge of Public Intoxication, the state of Georgia has enacted a law prohibiting pedestrians to walk on the road or shoulder of the road, commonly referred to as a “Pedestrian Under the Influence” charge. This charge is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500. See O.C.G.A. § 40-6-95. A Pedestrian Under the Influence charge requires that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that you were rendered a hazard to others.
If you are under the age of 21, you may face additional charges of Minor in Possession of Alcohol which carries penalties including a driver's license suspension, jail time, a fine, or probation. The maximum penalty for an underage consumption of alcohol charge in Georgia is a $300.00 fine and 6 months in jail. An MIP charge can also result in the loss of your Georgia Drivers License. So, it's a serious matter.
Moreover, even if you have not been drinking and are not intoxicated, but you are creating a public disturbance, you may face charges of Disorderly Conduct under Georgia law. The offense of Disorderly Conduct is committed when a person:
- Acts in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another person whereby such person is placed in reasonable fear of the safety of such person's life, limb, or health;
- Acts in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another person whereby the property of such person is placed in danger of being damaged or destroyed;
- Without provocation, uses to or of another person in such other person's presence, opprobrious or abusive words which by their very utterance tend to incite to an immediate breach of the peace, that is to say, words which as a matter of common knowledge and under ordinary circumstances will, when used to or of another person in such other person's presence, naturally tend to provoke violent resentment, that is, words commonly called "fighting words"; or
- Without provocation, uses obscene and vulgar or profane language in the presence of or by telephone to a person under the age of 14 years which threatens an immediate breach of the peace.
Disorderly Conduct is a catch-all provision in the state of Georgia, and is often used by officers when confronted with a person they wish to detain whether for the purposes of public safety or to prevent you from further interfering with an investigation or to simply “teach you a lesson.”
No matter the charge, any arrest can have a life-long effect and will be permanently listed on your criminal history that can be found during a background investigation. Having a criminal record no matter your age can bring the possibility of expulsion from school and your future employment opportunities, as well as affect your ability to get into college, qualify for financial aid and student loans, auto insurance, and rent a house or an apartment. Certain cases may be able to be resolved in a way to avoid a conviction being recorded on your criminal history and having the arrest expunged from your record. Any case involving a serious misdemeanor requires special attention due to the range of consequences the person may face including a permanent criminal record that could follow you for the rest of your life.
There are options when charged with any alcohol related offense in Georgia:
Our office is devoted to helping people who are charged with alcohol and drug-related offenses. You are never alone, as we are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help. You do not have to have a permanent criminal record; there are many options in public drunkenness cases, pedestrian under the influence cases, and in disorderly conduct cases. Call now for immediate legal help.