Public Intoxication: Not Just Drunk in Public Anymore

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Today our blog looks at one of the more common criminal charges Public Intoxication.  Especially in central Indiana, we see this charge with a high level of frequency.  This is due in part to us having great venues like Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Klipsch Music Center.  We have these great venues, with great entertainment, that allow a person to drink to the level of intoxication, and then literally force them out into the public.

Under old Indiana law, if you were intoxicated in public, you were committing a crime.  Yep, every time you had too much to drink at a bar and then stepped out on the sidewalk, police could arrest you for public intoxication.  However, eventually, our legislature made a wise decision and made the law regarding public intoxication in Indiana reflect what police were largely already doing, arresting drunks who were also acting foolish, in some way.

Indiana’s current statute on public intoxication reads:

(a) Subject to section 6.5 of this chapter, it is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to be in a public place or a place of public resort in a state of intoxication caused by the person’s use of alcohol or a controlled substance if the person:

  • (1) endangers the person’s life;
  • (2) endangers the life of another person;
  • (3) breaches the peace or is in imminent danger of breaching the peace; or
  • (4) harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.

So, now you can be drunk in public, including you can carry a drink in public, as long as you are not endangering your life or someone else’s life; you are not breaching the peace or are not in imminent danger of doing so; or as long as you are not harassing, annoying, or alarming another person.

So basically, if you are drunk in public, don’t act like a jerk and you should be okay.  However, parts of the statute are pretty subjective, especially being in “imminent danger of breaching the peace”.  I have no idea how that can happen or how someone would decide it is happening.

One strange thing in Indiana still exists when it comes to the public intoxication law, however.  In the eyes of the law, public intoxication is a more serious offense than driving a vehicle while intoxicated.  In Indiana, public intoxication is a B misdemeanor while operating a vehicle while intoxicated is a C misdemeanor.  The B carries up to 180 days in jail, the C only 60 days.  If anyone can figure that one out, please let me know.  Driving drunk is exponentially more dangerous than being drunk in public, but not according to the law.  Having said that, there is Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangering a Person, which is an A misdemeanor.  However, if you are pulled over for going 5 miles over the speed limit and the officer finds out you are drunk, that’s just a C misdemeanor, meanwhile, the drunk guy walking home from the bar who yells at you while you are getting arrested, he gets a B misdemeanor.  Doesn’t really make sense right?  Nonetheless, its the law!

At Banks & Brower the attorneys are both former prosecutors who have practiced law for nearly a combined two decades. If you find yourself charged with public intoxication or any other criminal matter contact us today to set up a meeting at our Indianapolis or Fishers office.  Simply call (317) 870-0019.  To learn more about the attorneys at Banks & Brower click here.