Public Drunk

Have you Been Charged with Public Drunkenness in Georgia? 

Public drunkenness is a crime that is frequently heard about in college towns. However, you can often spot lots of examples of this in downtown Atlanta as well. While public drunkenness is not as serious as other crimes, it still comes with consequences that you would be better off avoiding. Lawson and Berry is Georgia's premier criminal defense firm. They have decades of experience and are here to help you no matter what the charge! Contact them today for a free case evaluation.

Georgia Law O.C.G.A. §16-11-41

A person who shall be and appear in an intoxicated condition in any public place or within the curtilage of any private residence not his own other than by invitation of the owner or lawful occupant, which condition is made manifest by boisterousness, by indecent condition or act, or by vulgar, profane, loud, or unbecoming language is guilty of public drunkenness.

The statute was enacted in order to protect against a drunkard's conduct but not from the drunkard's mere presence. It is not a crime to be intoxicated on public streets or highways, or within the curtilage of a private residence as long as the person is not being boisterousness or demonstrating disorderly conduct.

Furthermore, it is not enough that a person appears intoxicated. Some vulgar, loud, profane, or unbecoming language must accompany their intoxication. If one of these is not present, then a person has not violated the statute.

What Constitutes a Public Place?

The public place element is broadly interpreted to include any place where people other than members of the defendant's family or household may reasonably view the defendant's conduct. Even if the defendant is on private property by invitation of the owner, that can still be considered a public place. United States v. Floyd, 281 F. 3d, 1346, (2002).

Georgia Case Law 

Police arrested a man outside his home for public drunkenness following an argument with a woman in his driveway. The defendant was observed by neighbors and officers to be visibly intoxicated and was loud and boisterous, screaming and cursing. The court held that since police found the defendant intoxicated in his yard, a place where his acts could be and were viewed by people other than members of his members, he was in a public place. Further, the court concluded that defendant constituted a public disturbance with his cursing and loud screaming. Therefore, he was convicted of public drunkenness. Ridley v. State, 176 Ga. App. 669, (1985).

What Has to be Proven to be Convicted

To be convicted of public drunkenness, the State must prove that the suspect is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This involves showing that the suspect was intoxicated in a public place when the action occurred and that loud, vulgar, profane, or unbecoming language accompanied their intoxication.

Penalty for Public Drunkenness in Georgia

If convicted of public drunkenness, the defendant will be guilty of a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors carry a punishment of up to one year in jail or up to $1,000 in fines, or both.

Georgia Defenses to Public Drunkenness

I was not in a public place: Evidence that the place was not considered to be a public place would help negate the elements, and you could be dismissed of the charges. 

I was not intoxicated: If it is proven that you were not intoxicated, then you cannot be guilty of public drunkenness. However, you could still be guilty of another crime such as public indecency.

I was just intoxicated; I was not committing any disorderly conduct: It is not a crime to be drunk in public. Therefore, if the drunkenness was not accompanied by loud, vulgar, profane, or unbecoming language, then you cannot be guilty of a crime.

What are Not Defenses

I was still on my property: As seen in the case above, even if you are the owner of the property, if your actions were visible to people outside of your home, then you can be guilty of public drunkenness.

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