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Drunk in Public / Public Intoxication Defense Lawyers in Fairfax, VA

You are not breaking the law in Fairfax if you are having a good time while consuming a few beers, hard lemonades, or glasses of wine. However, if someone looks at your behavior and construes it as being drunk in public, you could wind up being arrested and charged with public intoxication. 
In order for a drunk in public charge to be issued, prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused individual was intoxicated and that the incident took place in public. If charged with public intoxication, it is important that you understand the criteria for this offense: public and intoxication. An event occurs in public if it is in a place directly visible to the surrounding community. A person is considered drunk or intoxicated if he or she has consumed enough alcoholic beverages to noticeably change his or her speech, muscle movement, and general behavior. Although the exact definitions of these concepts vary slightly based on your locality within Fairfax County, VA, this is considered a broad definition for the entire state.

What Exactly Constitutes Public Intoxication in Fairfax County?

Public intoxication, commonly referred to as being drunk in public, is a misdemeanor criminal offense. The specific provisions of this offense can be found in Virginia Code § 18.2-388, which covers both swearing in public and being intoxicated by any substance like alcohol, narcotics, or other drugs.

What the Government Must Prove to Convict You of Public Intoxication

In order for a drunk in public charge to result in a conviction, the Commonwealth’s Attorney must be able to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that you were intoxicated and that the incident took place in public. 
If charged with public intoxication, it is important that you understand the legal elements that must be established for this offense: (i) you must have been in a public area and (ii) you must have been legally intoxicated.

What is Considered Public?

An event occurs in public if it is in a place directly visible to the surrounding community. The Virginia courts have stated that the plain meaning of “in public” for § 18.2-388 was a place in open view, visible to the community, and could include a person’s private property.  But if your private property is shielded from the public, then it would not be “in public.” This is important because if you are in your private home, shielded from public view, enjoying a few drinks while watching television, this would not be considered a “public” area.

When is Someone Considered to Be Intoxicated?

A person is considered drunk or intoxicated if they have consumed enough alcohol to noticeably change their speech, muscle movement, and/or general behavior. The public intoxication law does not define “intoxicated”; however, Virginia Code § 4.1-100 is used as a reference.  It defines intoxication as “condition in which a person has drunk enough alcoholic beverages to observably affect his manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior.”

Potential Penalties for a Public Intoxication Conviction in Fairfax

Public intoxication or drunk in public is considered a class 4 misdemeanor. Public intoxication is a “ticket offense” which means you will receive a ticket that orders you to pay a fine, usually up to $250. If you are drunk in public, you can be considered a danger to yourself and others. In some cases, a police officer may choose to take you to a detoxification facility or place you in protective custody instead of issuing a charge to protect you and those around you.
A $250 fine and no jail time may not seem like a heavy penalty, but it is important to note that by paying this fine, you are pleading guilty to the charge and will be convicted of the criminal misdemeanor offense. As a result, you will have the proverbial scarlet letter of a criminal record. This can impact your professional and personal decisions many years down the road. For example, you cannot apply to certain professions or maintain certain licensures with a criminal conviction on your record.
If you believe there are grounds to fight your public intoxication charge, contact an experienced Fairfax public intoxication defense lawyer before paying the fine.

Why It Makes Sense to Retain the Services of a Fairfax Defense Attorney

Fighting a public intoxication or drunk in public charge is difficult but not impossible. Having a strong defense can lead to your fee being reduced or possibly even your charges being dismissed. You might be able to prove that you were not legally intoxicated or that wherever the incident took place was not out in the general public.


Whatever the circumstances of your case, if you were charged with public intoxication, you owe it to yourself to have the very best defense possible. This is why it is important to hire an experienced defense attorney who knows the law, the court system in Fairfax, and has experience defending clients charged with this offense.
Dua Law Firm is here to help. Our team of Fairfax defense lawyers will pour over every detail of your public intoxication case and organize the strongest defense they can. We are dedicated to protecting your legal rights and working to give you the most desirable outcome in court.
Call Raj Dua at (703) 382-7300 or email [email protected] for a free, confidential consultation.

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