Public intoxication laws vary in each state. In Virginia, if the police have reason to believe that you are intoxicated in public, there is a chance they could arrest you.

Virginia classifies this criminal offense as a Class 4 misdemeanor. Many people view this charge as a slap on the wrist. However, there could be real consequences if you have previous drug or alcohol-related offenses.

How do police officers determine someone is drunk in public?

Officers judge how intoxicated you are based on your speech, appearance, behavior, and body movement. Also, if police hear or see you yelling profane language or acting out of control, they may want to check on you. If the police detain you, they will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated while in public and caused a disturbance. Lastly, police officers do not need to use a breath alcohol test to warrant taking you into custody.

What legal consequences might you face?

Class 4 misdemeanors are usually punishable by a fine of $250 or less. There is generally no jail time for a Class 4 misdemeanor. This does not mean that the police will not arrest you, though. An officer may take you into custody if they believe you are disturbing the public while intoxicated.

Additionally, if you have previous drug- or alcohol-related offenses on your record, you may face harsher penalties. You may receive a fine of $2,500 or less and jail time up to 12 months. If you commit other crimes while intoxicated in public, you could face even more severe consequences.

Can you remove a conviction from your record?

Virginia does not allow the expungement of criminal offenses from an adult’s record. If you plead guilty or are found guilty, you will have a public intoxication conviction on your record for life. This may affect your ability to find a job in the future.

While it may be unlikely that you will face any jail time, receiving a public intoxication charge is a serious matter. Working with a criminal defense lawyer might help you in this situation. Your lawyer can provide advice and work to prove your case in court.