Alpharetta was once a 2-traffic light city. But that has changed. The tech industry has moved in and with it, more families and young people. The city offers exceptional quality of life, and with that quality are great restaurants, outdoor activities, and festivals. Consuming alcohol is also part of the fun for adults when they go out for entertainment, whether it is downtown, including the much anticipated City Center, or elsewhere in the city. Much entertainment includes drinking outside, but the city limits just how much you can drink alcohol on public property. According to Alpharetta Code of Ordinances Section 3-182, outside consumption is limited to one 16 oz. alcoholic beverage per person and the said alcohol consumption can only be consumed downtown, not in public parks or a sidewalk that is adjacent to a school, church or other private property without express consent of property owners. This ordinance has been established to thwart public drunkenness.
This Alpharetta Code of Ordinances Section 3-182, however, does not prevent all cases of public drunkenness. If you are in a situation where you went out and had a drink or two with friends or family and were subsequently charged with public drunkenness, take the charge seriously. Though having a drink was innocent fun at the time, the charge can become a serious issue, especially if you give little regard to it and end up convicted. If that happens, you have yourself a criminal record, and a conviction of public drunkenness does not look good to a new employer who conducts a background check. If you have been charged with public drunkenness, you should not take it lightly. Contact award-winning Alpharetta DUI lawyer Richard Lawson for legal assistance today.
Public Drunkenness: What It Means in Georgia
According to OCGA § 16-11-41(a), public drunkenness is committed when (1) a person has the appearance of “an intoxicated condition” while “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”; and (2) the “condition is made manifest by boisterousness, by indecent condition or act, or by vulgar, profane, loud, or unbecoming language.”
Therefore, public drunkenness is a charge based largely on a person's behavior rather than the actual blood alcohol content (BAC). In order to be convicted of the charge, you must still have a BAC at or above the legal BAC limit of 0.08%, but you must also be acting in a particular way as described by statute. These behavioral characteristics can include any of the following:
- Boisterousness is generally associated with rough, violent conduct absent restraint or discipline.
- Indecent condition or act can include any act that goes against the morals of society, including urinating, exposing genital areas, or making lewd gestures.
- Vulgar and profane terms are terms censored on the radio, public broadcasts, and some writing, and this includes obscenities or fighting words.
- Loud refers to sound either made vociferously or manually, i.e., singing, laughing, or hitting things.
- Unbecoming language is used as a “catchall” to include any other act that may be construed as characteristic of a person drunk in public.
In other words, if your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you cannot generally be convicted of Public Drunkenness if you were not exhibiting any of the above behaviors at the time the charge and/or arrest was made. If your BAC was 0.08% or higher and you were quietly walking to a public transportation stop to take public transit home, then you cannot be convicted of this charge. If your BAC was 0.08% or higher and you were quietly waiting for a friend, taxi, ext., to pick you up and take you home, you cannot be charged with public drunkenness. Therefore, if an officer ever approaches you while you are in a public space and you suspect your BAC may be 0.08% or higher, remain respectful to the officer. Do nothing that would cause him or her to arrest you for public drunkenness.
Consequences of Public Drunkenness Conviction
Many times, if a person is in a public space while also intoxicated and acting a little rowdy, he or she may simply be issued a warning. Other times, if intoxicated and he or she is considerably loud and disrespectful, especially as an officer approaches to investigate, the person will be charged and escorted to jail for the night. If the public drunkenness charge materializes into a conviction, you may face jail time, fines, or both.
A public drunkenness conviction is a misdemeanor that carries with it a sentence of up to one year in jail, or up to a $1,000 fine, or both. A sentence can include both jail time and fines as well as probation, community service, or attendance at a DUI School. The penalty you receive will be decided by the court, which considers your past criminal history and any concurrent offenses. Concurrent offenses often include disorderly conduct, trespassing, and assault.
The penalties for public intoxication may seem relatively minor, but the true consequences of the conviction may be felt outside the court-ordered sentence. A criminal record can make it difficult for someone who seeks housing, or educational opportunities, and as mentioned already, a public drunkenness conviction does not look good to a prospective employer who conducts a background check. Never assume it is a silly offense and easier to plead guilty; fighting for your rights and a clean record is always in your best interests.
Defenses to Prevent a Conviction
If you have been charged with public intoxication in Roswell or Alpharetta, Georgia, an experienced DUI lawyer will strategize a good defense that will lead to a good outcome for you: either dismissal altogether, or reduced charge to an infraction, either of which will not be accompanied by a criminal record. Three common defenses include:
- Absence of intoxication. If your BAC was below 0.08% or if a breathalyzer test or blood test were not conducted, your lawyer can argue the absence of this element to the charge.
- Absence of harm. Behavior is an important element to a public drunkenness charge, and if no harm was done, or no specific statutory behavior was present, then all the elements of the charge are not fulfilled. Your lawyer will argue the same.
- Absence of public place or private residence without owner's consent. To be arrested for public intoxication, you must be on public property or at a residence without the dweller's consent, so if neither of these elements are present, the offense of public intoxication was not committed.
Award-Winning, Reputable DUI Defense Attorney in Alpharetta & Roswell, Georgia
Being charged with public drunkenness can be shocking for many law-abiding citizens, especially if you are taken to jail for the night. If you have been charged with this offense, you should contact an experienced Roswell DUI Attorney to help you defend yourself. Richard Lawson, award-winning DUI lawyer with more than two decades of experience, is committed to defending people just like you who find themselves in an unwanted position. He has the resources and provides comprehensive representation. Richard Lawson's practice is always available to take your call at 404-816-4440, or by online request for a free consultation.