Public intoxication (Title 18, Section 5505 https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=55) is only a crime in Pennsylvania if the person charged has endangered or inconvenienced other people. It must be proven in court that the person charged with public intoxication:
- Appeared in public under the influence of drugs or alcohol (except their own lawful prescription drugs), and
- Caused an annoyance to others, or
- Were so intoxicated as to pose a danger to themselves, to others, or to property.
Consequently, someone who is intoxicated but is quietly walking on the sidewalk cannot be arrested for or charged with public intoxication. Also, even a privately owned space can be public under this law if members of the public are bothered by the intoxicated person’s behavior. For example, someone who is intoxicated in a gated community and is bothering others can be charged with public intoxication.
Pennsylvania has steep fines for those convicted of public intoxication: a first offense results in a $500, but if this is not your first offense, you may be facing a fine as high as $1000.
How An Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Often, arrests for public intoxication are made because police officers expect that the arrested individuals will just accepted the charge and pay the fine.
However, with the help of a knowledgeable lawyer, you can develop strong defenses to present to the judge at your hearing that can either have your fine reduced or convince the judge to drop the public intoxication charges entirely.
Some of the best defenses for a public intoxication charge are that you were not actually causing anyone harm or annoyance at the time of your arrest. You can show the judge that you were taking your own prescription drugs at the time. Finally, you can show that you not voluntarily in a public place, if the police officers took you to a public place before arresting you.
Don’t forget that you have rights and do not need to simply accept your guilt. If you have been charged with public intoxication, call our offices right away and speak to one of our experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers. The sooner you call, the more time you and your lawyer have to prepare for your hearing.