For most people, there is nothing wrong with enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two. As long as you are of legal drinking age, don’t have a medical reason not to drink, and don’t plan on driving, having a drink can be a great way to relax. But if you take it too far, you could be charged with a crime.
Under Kentucky law, it is illegal to be obviously intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs in a public place and engage in certain behaviors. Specifically, if you are so drunk or high that you are a danger to yourself, other people, or property, or if you are unreasonably annoying, you may be charged with public intoxication.
This offense may seem like a relatively minor crime, but it can have serious consequences, including a potential jail sentence. If you have been charged with public intoxication, a Lexington criminal defense lawyer can fight for your rights and your freedom.
What Is the Law on Public Intoxication in Kentucky?
As with many laws, it can be hard to know what behavior is prohibited by Kentucky’s law against public intoxication. Under this statute, you cannot be charged with a crime for simply being drunk or high in public. Instead, it requires something more.
Kentucky law covers two different types of public intoxication charges: alcohol intoxication and public intoxication. The main difference between the two criminal charges is how a person is intoxicated: by alcohol, or by a controlled substance or other intoxicating substance (other than alcohol, unless the alcohol was in combination with the other substance).
For both criminal offenses, you cannot be charged simply because you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol in public. You can only be charged with these crimes if you are manifestly (obviously) intoxicated to such an extent that you (1) endanger yourself or others; (2) endanger property; or (3) unreasonably annoy others.
Public intoxication is a Class B misdemeanor under Kentucky law. It is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, and/or a fine of up to $250. By contrast, alcohol intoxication is a violation, with a minimum sentence of $25 for a first offense.
Can I Fight a Public Intoxication Charge?
There are a number of potential defenses to a criminal charge for public or alcohol intoxication. A skilled Lexington criminal defense attorney can work with you to develop factual and legal defenses to the charges against you.
First, if you were not intoxicated in a public place, or if you moved from a private place to a public place involuntarily, that can be used as a defense to the crime. Consider a situation where you were partying at your own home when you hear a knock at the door. You answer, and a police officer orders you to step outside, and then charges you with public intoxication once you reach the sidewalk. In this situation, your criminal defense lawyer can argue that you only stepped outside because you were ordered to do so, and should not be convicted of this crime.
Second, your attorney may put together evidence to show that you were not actually intoxicated at the time of the arrest. To overcome the police officer’s testimony about your intoxication, you will need to have solid, objective evidence, like a chemical breath or blood test.
Third, because both alcohol and public intoxication charges require evidence that you were a danger or were unreasonably annoying, you may be able to argue that you weren’t actually bothering anyone (or damaging property). For example, you may be able to present testimony from a neighbor who will state that you weren’t a nuisance in any way.
Keep in mind that a conviction for public intoxication can lead to serious consequences. You may be sentenced to jail time if you are convicted, and you will also have a criminal record. That is why it is so important to work with a skilled Lexington criminal attorney to achieve the best possible outcome.
What Charges Are Linked to Public Intoxication?
If you are stopped by the police while you’re under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, you may be charged with a range of crimes other than public intoxication. The specific charges will depend on what exactly you were doing at the time.
For example, if you were stopped while operating a motor vehicle, you may be charged with a DUI. Alternatively, if you created a disturbance, made an unreasonable amount of noise, or engaged in fighting, while you were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, you could be charged with disorderly conduct. If law enforcement orders you to leave while you are engaging in disorderly conduct, and you refuse to do so, you may be facing a charge of failure to disperse.
If you are stopped with illegal drugs, you could also be charged with a drug offense. This may include possession of marijuana, drug possession, or even possession with intent to distribute. Each of these charges carries significant potential consequences, which is why you should reach out to an experienced attorney in Lexington, KY as soon as possible.
I’m Taking Prescription Drugs. Can I Be Charged with Public Intoxication?
Under Kentucky law, public intoxication can only be charged if the intoxicating substance was not therapeutically administered. This means that the substance must not have been given to treat a medical or mental health condition. As such, if you appear to be “manifestly intoxicated” because of a medicine that you were taking in accordance with your doctor’s advice, it may be a defense to a charge of public intoxication.
This can happen in a number of ways, even if the medication itself is not known to be intoxicating. For example, allegery, cold, and flu medications don’t typically cause impairment. But if you are on these medicines and have a few alcoholic beverages, you may find that your judgment and focus will be significantly affected. You may even appear to be “manifestly intoxicated.”
What Happens If I Get Arrested Several Times for Alcohol Intoxication?
Each time that you are convicted of alcohol intoxication, the potential penalties increase. While alcohol intoxication is a relatively minor charge, if you are arrested again within a 12 month period, then your sentence will increase from a fine of at least $25 and no jail time to a fine of $25 to $100 and a jail sentence of 5 to 90 days.
In addition, if you are charged with alcohol intoxication three or more times, then a judge may choose to sentence you to a drug or alcohol treatment or education program. You will be required to participate in the program for up to 6 months and will have to pay for the cost of the treatment (to the extent that you are able to do so). If you fail to complete the program, you may be required to serve the original sentence imposed by the judge.
I Got Charged with Drinking Alcohol in a Public Place and Alcohol Intoxication. Can the State Charge Me with Both Offenses?
Yes. The Kentucky Penal Code includes both crimes in the same statute. Depending on what you were doing at the time of the arrest, you could potentially be charged with alcohol intoxication as well as drinking alcohol in a public place.
You may be charged with drinking alcohol in a public place if you consume an alcoholic beverage in a public place, or on any type of public transportation or a public transportation depot, platform, or waiting room. For example, you were hanging out at a public park with some friends, drinking alcohol, and being rowdy. In this situation, you could be charged with both drinking alcohol in a public place as well as alcohol intoxication.
What Exactly Is a Public Place?
Under Kentucky law, a public place is defined as a place to which the public or a substantial group of people has access. Under this definition, an act has occurred in a public place if it produces offensive or prohibited consequences in a public place.
Examples of public places include:
- Places of amusement
- Hallways, lobbies, and other common areas in apartment houses or hotels
- Transportation facilities
- Places of business
A private home, apartment, or even a hotel room is not considered a public place for purposes of these laws.
Facing Public Intoxication Charges? Reach Out Today.
Being charged with a crime can be both embarrassing and scary. We understand how overwhelmed you may be at the prospect of having a criminal record or even spending time in jail. We’re here to help.
For more than 30 years, Baldani Law has represented clients in Fayette County and throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We have significant trial experience, and put our knowledge of the criminal justice system to work to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a Lexington criminal defense lawyer, call our law firm at 866-518-1720 or fill out our online contact form.