Many view a charge of public intoxication as a minor issue, but a conviction for this crime can come to haunt you in the future. The penalties, criminal record, and reputational damage will all have a permanent effect on your life. To try and make the charges stick, a prosecutor may force a plea deal or charge you with additional crimes to prove the public intoxication charge. If you have been charged with public intoxication, it is important that you hire a lawyer before speaking with police or prosecutors for the case.
Proving Public Intoxication
While the law varies a little from state to state, most can not arrest you simply because you are under the influence of alcohol in a public space. Typically, police must believe that you are a danger to yourself or others in order to make an arrest for public intoxication. Oftentimes, police will make an arrest without doing a breath or blood alcohol test or a field sobriety test that proves intoxication. An experienced criminal defense attorney can pick apart the prosecution’s case and many times get the charges dropped before it ever goes to court.
Because it is so difficult to prove public intoxication in court, oftentimes the police and prosecutors will tack on additional charges to try and force a plea deal or make something stick in the case. Disorderly conduct charges or your state’s equivalent to the charge is the most common additional crime charged with public intoxication, and if convicted for this crime, the penalties are more severe than public intoxication. Resisting arrest is another charge commonly added to the crime of public intoxication. A skilled criminal defense attorney can go through your case and build the best defense against any charges brought by the state.
Penalties for Public Intoxication
When charged with public intoxication, the local prosecutor usually tries to push you to accept a plea deal before ever contacting an attorney in exchange for minimal penalties associated with the crime. This typically includes community service, a fine, minimal time in a county jail, and other nominal penalties for the charge. However, the prosecution is not on your side, and they undersell the other permanent damage that a guilty plea to a public intoxication charge can cause. A guilty plea gives you a criminal record that will show up on every background check an employer, landlord, or anyone can search. It also causes permanent damage to your personal and professional reputation.
In addition, if the prosecution adds charges such as disorderly conduct or resisting arrest to the public intoxication charge, the additional punishment can be far worse with significant prison time and other serious penalties. The ramifications of a public intoxication conviction are far more serious than what the prosecution lets on, and a criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you through the process with your best interests at heart.
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