Overview Of Florida’s Public Intoxication Laws
It is common knowledge that driving while intoxicated is against the law, carrying significant criminal penalties and implications for your driving privileges if you are convicted. However, you may not know that other conduct involving alcohol may constitute a criminal offense in Florida. The Sunshine State has passed legislation that criminalizes public intoxication, and there can be serious penalties if you are found guilty. The law does provide certain defenses, and you stand a better chance of obtaining a favorable outcome if you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Florida.
Types of Public Intoxication
Florida law refers to this offense as “disorderly” intoxication, and there are two ways you may violate the statute:
- You may be arrested for consuming alcohol in public, regardless of your level of intoxication. For purposes of the statute, a public place includes transportation, such as on a city bus, commuter train, or other conveyance.
- You can be charged if you are seriously intoxicated, present in a public place, and are conducting yourself in such a way that you endanger yourself, other people, or property.
Penalties for a Conviction on Disorderly Intoxication
Police may be sympathetic in situations involving public intoxication. If you are causing only a minor disturbance, are not engaged in other criminal activity, and are polite to the officer, you may only get a ride home to sober up. Still, you could be arrested if you are creating serious commotion and act belligerently. Of course, any associated criminal conduct would be grounds for arrest despite your disorderly conduct.
Disorderly intoxication is a Second Degree Misdemeanor under Florida law, punishable by a maximum fine of $250, 90 days in jail, probation, or any combination. There are more severe penalties for subsequent offenses, and you could be placed in rehab for up to two months if you are convicted three times in a year.
You can fight disorderly intoxication charges by presenting evidence that shows:
- You were not intoxicated, which typically requires that you have some sort of chemical test showing your blood alcohol concentration (BAC);
- You were not in a public place, such as in your driveway or a private sidewalk; or,
- You did not exhibit disorderly conduct, which can be a challenge since judges tend to find a police officer’s statements credible. You may use this defense if you can bring in witnesses who will testify that you were not causing trouble or wreaking havoc.
Trust an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
Disorderly intoxication may not seem like a serious criminal charge, but there can be harsh consequences for a conviction. Even if you avoid jail time, you may be sentenced to pay hefty fines and court costs. Plus, a conviction will remain on your permanent criminal record. If you are facing public intoxication charges, it is wise to have a lawyer to defend your rights. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, please contact the Fort Lauderdale, FL law offices of criminal defense attorney Kevin J. Kulik.