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Drunk in Public/Public Intoxication in Virginia

What is Defined as Public Intoxication/Drunk in Public?

To be considered “intoxicated” under Virginia law, a person must have drunk enough alcoholic beverages to visibly affect their manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance, or behavior. The police officer who charged you with this offense must testify that they observed you behaving in a way that is consistent with an intoxicated person—in other words, they must show that there were some outward signs of your alcohol consumption. The smell of alcohol on your person is not enough to show that you were publicly intoxicated.


“Public” is defined by Virginia courts as a place in open view, visible to the community. Even if an outdoor area is owned by you, it can still be considered public if it is visible to others.


What Happens if You Are Charged with Public Intoxication?

In Virginia, Public Intoxication is a Class 4 Misdemeanor Offense. It is a criminal offense punished by the entry of a criminal record and a fine of $250 maximum. It is important to know that if you pay the fine, you are essentially pleading guilty to the charge, and it will go on your record. Additionally, a conviction of Public Intoxication results in the disqualification for a concealed handgun permit under Virginia law for a 3 year period.

Possible Defenses

If it can be proven that you were not observably intoxicated, that you were not in public, or that the officer charging you mistook your identity and/or what you said, then you may have a very good chance of getting the charge dropped.


Additionally, if you have a clean record or this is your first offense, you may be eligible for deferred disposition pursuant to § 19.2-298.02. Deferred disposition happens when you are found guilty, but the judge withholds a finding of guilt (does not enter the final conviction on the record) for a set period of time, during which you are assigned a number of obligations by the court. If you complete these obligations by the end of your probationary period, then the case is dismissed. The charge will remain on your record, but it will not show a conviction.

How We Can Help

The Pickett Law Group, PLLC is an experienced law firm with two generations of former prosecutors, who have fought from both sides of the courtroom on all types of legal issues including Drunk in Public. Our attorneys can help you avoid a conviction for this crime with their expert defense. Contact us today and we will begin fighting on your behalf.

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