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Public Intoxication

Sept. 23, 2021

Va. Code § 18.2-388 makes it a crime to appear in public while intoxicated. The actual language from the statute is:

If any person ... is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

The statute is very broad, but most police officers will not charge someone with being intoxicated in public unless they are being disorderly or disrupting the peace.

What's the Punishment for Public Intoxication?

Public intoxication is a class 4 misdemeanor. A class 4 misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $250 fine. But the most important consequence of a conviction for public intoxication is a permanent criminal record. In Virginia, if you are convicted of public intoxication, you can never have the conviction expunged from your record. It is permanent.

It's also important to understand that because public intoxication is a criminal offense, if you're convicted it will stay on your criminal record forever. You cannot have a public intoxication charge expunged or removed from your record if you're convicted.

How Can I Beat a Public Intoxication Charge?

Public intoxication charges are easy for police to win. They only have to show that you were intoxicated and in a place visible to the public. That makes beating a public intoxication charge difficult, but if you're charged, it makes sense to consult an attorney about your options. At the very least, you can make an informed decision about whether you want to risk a permanent criminal record.

If I'm Found Not Guilty, Can I Have the Charge Expunged?

Probably. In most cases, if you're found not guilty, you can petition the circuit court to have the record expunged. Please give me a call to discuss the expungement process.