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What Constitutes Public Intoxication?

Is it really a crime to be intoxicated in public? Under Tennessee law, yes, it is. A person is publicly intoxicated when they are in any public location under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the level that they might:

  • Harm themselves;
  • Harm other people around them or property; or
  • Unreasonably annoy the people around them.

Public intoxication is classified as a class C misdemeanor offense in Tennessee, punishable by jail time of up to 30 days and a fine not exceeding $50. But for a person to be convicted of public intoxication, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were a public hazard or nuisance in a public location at the time of arrest and not simply intoxicated.

What Are The Defenses to a Public Intoxication Charge?

Being intoxicated while in a public location is not a criminal offense. Unfortunately, however, there have been cases where police officers have arrested people for being intoxicated in public, even if they care about their safety or other people’s safety or property. There have also been instances where officers have arrested people for being publicly drunk or drugged, without probable cause, to search them for illegal items, such as drugs or weapons.

If you have been arrested and charged with public intoxication, the prosecutor must do more than establish you were intoxicated in a public location. Keep in mind that being buzzed or obviously intoxicated, even if you’re out in public, only becomes a criminal offense if you’re so intoxicated that you can’t possibly take care of yourself and avoid getting harmed or harming people around you.

In addition, if you were arrested in a county where there’s a treatment facility, the arresting officer must offer you the option of treatment instead of jail. Potential defenses to a public intoxication charge can include:

  • You weren’t in a public location when you got arrested
  • You weren’t intoxicated to the level that you were going to harm yourself or others
  • You did not intentionally or willfully get intoxicated
  • The arresting officer violated your legal rights

Take note that a public location is any area that the public can access, which includes, but isn’t limited to, streets, highways, schools, amusement or entertainment venues, transportation facilities, parks, lobbies, business offices, hallways, playgrounds, and other areas of hotels and apartment complexes that are not meant for actual residence.

Public intoxication cases could be complex, particularly in cases where defendants receive related charges, such as assault, disorderly conduct, drug possession, etc. Fortunately, our Nashville public intoxication attorney knows how to investigate and evaluate such cases to ensure the most favorable results for our clients. They can explore the best solutions specific to your situation.

If you or a loved one is facing a public intoxication charge and require competent legal defense, get in touch with the Nashville public intoxication attorney at Andrew C. Beasley, PLLC, right away. You can set up your free case review by filling out our online form or calling us at 615-620-5803.

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