You went to the bar, had a few drinks, stumbled out onto the sidewalk and suddenly found yourself in handcuffs. What possibly could be illegal about enjoying a few adult beverages at a local establishment? After all, it is not as if you were attempting to drive while intoxicated.
The legality of your enjoyment comes into play when you have overimbibed to the point that you are considered publicly intoxicated. But that exactly does that mean?
Public intoxication is really just a fancier way of saying drunk and disorderly. And the definition of "drunk and disorderly" conduct varies depending on which state you are located in.
Generally, to be considered publically intoxicated you have to be intoxicated (or appear to be) while in a public place. Intoxication in most jurisdictions does not solely mean that you are under the influence of alcohol - it could also mean that you are under the influence of drugs.
In New York, the idea of public intoxication applies only to intoxication from drugs, not alcohol. New York penal law defines public intoxication as annoying others or endangering oneself, others or property while appearing in public under the influence of drugs. New York state laws do not prohibit public drunkenness, although local laws may differ.
The purpose of public intoxication laws is to protect bystanders and intoxicated people from causing injury to themselves or others.
To learn more about possible defenses to public intoxication and related offenses, check back for our next blog post.
Related resource: New York Penal Law, Chapter 40, Article 240.40.