Is it Illegal to be Publicly Intoxicated in Florida?
Under Florida law, simply being intoxicated in public is not a crime. This is in contrast to the laws in a handful of other states that do impose punishment for public intoxication. Florida law states:
“No person in the state shall be intoxicated and endanger the safety of another person or property, and no person in the state shall be intoxicated or drink any alcoholic beverage in a public place or in or upon any public conveyance and cause a public disturbance.”
This is known as the crime of “disorderly intoxication.”
Understanding Disorderly Intoxication
While simply being drunk in public won’t get you thrown in jail, it is important to understand that there are two separate forms of criminal disorderly intoxication. These are:
- Endangering the safety of another person or someone else’s property while intoxicated, and
- Causing a public disturbance while intoxicated or drinking in public.
Of course, what exactly it means to “endanger” someone or a piece of property, or to cause a “public disturbance,” is somewhat open to interpretation. If you have been arrested for disorderly intoxication, calling these elements into question may be your strongest defense. Other possible defenses include:
- Lack of proof that you were intoxicated
- That you were not in a public place
- You were acting in self-defense or in defense of others
- You were exercising your First Amendment rights
What it Means to be “Intoxicated” under Florida Law
Part of the prosecutor’s burden of proof in a disorderly intoxication case will be to prove that you were actually intoxicated. Intoxication requires more than just being under the influence of alcohol. Accordingly, the standard for intoxication is higher than the standard for driving under the influence (DUI).
To be intoxicated, you must be, “so affected from the drinking of an alcoholic beverage as to have lost or been deprived of the normal control of either [your] body[,] mental faculties, or both.” Basically, you need to be drunk. Similar to proving “endangerment” or a “public disturbance,” this is a highly fact-intensive issue that requires examination of all of the evidence available.
Penalties for Disorderly Intoxication
Public disturbance is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. This means that if you are found guilty, you can face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. If you receive four disorderly intoxication convictions in a 12-month period, the court can also commit you to a treatment center for up to 60 days.
Fight Your Disorderly Intoxication Charges
If you have been arrested on suspicion of disorderly intoxication, we strongly recommend that you fight the charges against you. You do not want a conviction on your criminal record, and there are numerous possible defenses to disorderly intoxication. To learn more about fighting disorderly intoxication charges in Jacksonville, FL, contact The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. today.