It may seem obvious that a person cannot be charged with public intoxication while inside their own homes, but what about outside? What can happen if you are intoxicated on your own outdoor property, such as a front porch?  You might be facing a criminal misdemeanor and it is important that you contact a misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA right away!

A misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA knows that in Virginia a “public” place is defined as, “any place, building, or conveyance to which the public has, or is permitted to have, access.”  See Virginia Code § 4.1-100. However, the courts have expanded the functional definition of “public” to refer to any outdoor place that is visible to others, even if it is on your own private property. This means that you can be charged with public intoxication for simply standing on the front steps of your own home while under the influence of alcohol. While there have been court rulings in other states related to excessive alcohol consumption on one’s own front steps or porch, Virginia courts have not so limited the scope of what constitutes “public” space.  A misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA has seen these kinds of circumstances and will know how to advise you if you find yourself in this kind of situation.

Sometimes what constitutes “private property” in a public intoxication case can be confusing.  As such, you should always contact a misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA if you find yourself charged with public intoxication in Virginia.

Knowing that you can be arrested for public intoxication in Virginia while on your own property, it is important to consider steps you can take to avoid an unnecessary misdemeanor charge.  First and foremost, do not become intoxicated! Then you do not have to worry if you are in a public or private space. However, sometimes circumstances are such that a person will consume one too many drinks and having a misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA on your side is important when this occurs.  The situation is not uncommon: a citizen is throwing a party at a private residence that involves alcohol consumption. Perhaps the music is loud, or the guests are a bit rowdy, and a neighbor calls the police. When law enforcement arrives, they may ask you to step outside so they can talk to you. However, keep in mind that if you are drunk, stepping outside is all an officer will need to arrest and charge you with public intoxication. You could end up being charged simply for complying with an officer’s request. If this happens to you, call a misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA to protect your rights and help you explore potential options moving forward.

Virginia law defines “intoxication” as having consumed enough alcohol that it changes your “manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior.”  See Virginia Code § 4.1-100. While many point to the .08 blood alcohol content standard that is commonly known, the police do not have to give you a breath or blood test to charge you with public intoxication.  Instead, they can charge you based on their observations of your behavior. A good misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA understands what burden a prosecutor will have to meet to prove you were intoxicated and use that knowledge to help defend your case.

Public intoxication is a Class 4 misdemeanor that can come with an up-to $250 fine.  A misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA knows that there is no jail time associated with a Class 4 misdemeanor.  To be sure, the police may handcuff you and take you to a holding area, or a specified detox center, for a few hours while you sober up. But there is generally no risk of jail time as part of a criminal sentence.  Because of this, many people may think it is unnecessary to hire an attorney if facing a drunk in public charge. This is not accurate and if you are charged with public intoxication you should hire a misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA right away.  For example, although the punishment may not be very severe relative to other charges, it is still a criminal offense that will be put on your permanent record. This can impact job prospects, school admission, security clearances, and other aspect of your future.  This is why we always recommend calling a misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA, no matter how small the charge may seem.

If you are charged with public intoxication or any other criminal misdemeanor, contact May Law, LLP and speak to a misdemeanor lawyer Fairfax VA right away!