Public intoxication
Public intoxication, also known as "drunk and disorderly", is a summary offense in many countries rated to public cases or displays of drunkenness. Public intoxication laws vary widely from country to country.


While it is technically illegal in most states and territories
States and territories of Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is a union of six states and various territories. The Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories, with the sixth state of Tasmania being made up of islands. In addition there are six island territories, known as external territories, and a...

 of Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 to be drunk and disorderly, most Australian police take a humane approach with regards to public intoxication. This includes transporting the IP ("Intoxicated Person") to his or her residence or temporary detention at a police station or other welfare establishment until the intoxicated person is sober.

In Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

 being "drunk in a public place" and "drunk and disorderly in a public place" are separate offences contained in the Summary Offences Act 1966 which have their own power of arrest. Recent changes to legislation allow police to issue an infringement notice for these offences in addition to the traditional method of charging and bailing the offender to the Magistrates' Court. The current fine attached to the infringement notice is $590.00 for a first offence and $1100.00 for a subsequent offence. A person arrested for being drunk or drunk and disorderly is held at the Melbourne Custody Centre or the cells at a police station or placed in the care of a friend or relative.

In New South Wales police have the discretion to issue "on the spot" fines or infringement notices for "drunk in public," a fine that costs the individual over $480 (4 penalty units). Community Legal Centres across the state complain about these fines and the impact it has had on various vulnerable members of the community, including young people, the homeless and minority groups.

Prosecution (charging) is generally only considered if the person is violent or other offenses have been committed.

As an example, a "Drunk and Disorderly" Fine in the State of New South Wales starts at $550:

As of February 2009, local Councils in the State of New South Wales are not allowed to charge people who drink in Alcohol Free Zones; they are only permitted to confiscate the alcohol of the intoxicated person.


In Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, liquor laws are made by the provinces
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

 and not the federal government
Government of Canada
The Government of Canada, formally Her Majesty's Government, is the system whereby the federation of Canada is administered by a common authority; in Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council...


In British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, drinking in public and public intoxication are offenses. If an event is to take place in public with alcohol it must have a permit.

While liquor laws are similar from province to province, the laws in the Territories
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

 tend to be substantially different. For instance, in the Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada.Located in northern Canada, the territory borders Canada's two other territories, Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, and three provinces: British Columbia to the southwest, and Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south...

 public intoxication can result in imprisonment or detention in a medical facility for up to 24 hours (NWT Liquor Act).

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, there are a number of offences dealing with intoxication, which vary between the constituent countries.

In a public place, it is an offence to be:
  • drunk,
  • drunk and disorderly

It is also an offence to be drunk:
  • while boarding, or while on board, an aircraft
  • while in charge of a child under 7 years old
  • while travelling to a "designated sporting event" (usually professional football matches) on public transport
    Public transport
    Public transport is a shared passenger transportation service which is available for use by the general public, as distinct from modes such as taxicab, car pooling or hired buses which are not shared by strangers without private arrangement.Public transport modes include buses, trolleybuses, trams...

     or a vehicle with eight seats or more
  • while in, or attempting to enter, a "designated sporting ground" (a football ground) during a designated sporting event.

Typically the police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 will, depending on the circumstances, help the intoxicated person on their way or place the person in a police station cell until sober
Sobriety is the condition of not having any measurable levels, or effects from, alcohol or other drugs that alter ones mood or behaviors. According to WHO "Lexicon of alcohol and drug terms..." sobriety is continued abstinence from alcohol and psychoactive drug use...

. Once fit to be dealt with the detained person will normally either be cautioned, be issued with a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND - ¬£80 fine in ticket form) or bailed to appear at the local court
Magistrates' Court
A magistrates' court or court of petty sessions, formerly known as a police court, is the lowest level of court in England and Wales and many other common law jurisdictions...

. The court in turn may issue a fine (up to level 1 or level 3 on the standard scale depending on the offence charged).

There are also many more specific offences, including driving a motor vehicle while drunk (or being found 'drunk in charge') and riding a cycle while unfit through drink. Furthermore, the police have the power (although not the obligation) to confiscate any alcohol which is being consumed in public by those under 18, and local authorities
Local government
Local government refers collectively to administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a state.The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government...

 have the power to prohibit alcohol consumption in certain areas.

New Zealand

In New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, drinking in public is not a crime and instead, local governments must specify that alcohol is banned in an area before it is considered a crime to drink in that location. Being drunk in public is not specifically an offense unless the person who is intoxicated is a public nuisance, in which case they may be dealt with for 'disturbing the peace'. This will usually result in being taken home, or otherwise taken to a police cell until sober.

United States

Because Article One
Article One of the United States Constitution
Article One of the United States Constitution describes the powers of Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government. The Article establishes the powers of and limitations on the Congress, consisting of a House of Representatives composed of Representatives, with each state gaining or...

 of the Constitution of the United States does not grant the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 the power to control public intoxication under federal law
Law of the United States
The law of the United States consists of many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law, of which the most important is the United States Constitution, the foundation of the federal government of the United States...

, it is therefore, under the Tenth Amendment, one of the powers "reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people." Thus, public intoxication laws in the United States are entirely a product of state and local laws. As a result, laws in the United States regarding drunkenness
Alcohol intoxication is a physiological state that occurs when a person has a high level of ethanol in his or her blood....

 vary widely from state to state.

1968 Constitutional challenge

In 1968, in the case of Powell v. Texas
Powell v. Texas
Powell v. Texas, 392 U.S. 514 , was a United States Supreme Court case which ruled that a Texas statute criminalizing public intoxication did not violate the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. It was a 5-4 decision, and the majority opinion was by Justice Thurgood...

, the Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 law against public intoxication was challenged in the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 for alleged violation of Eighth Amendment
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this amendment's Cruel and Unusual...

, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment
Cruel and unusual punishment
Cruel and unusual punishment is a phrase describing criminal punishment which is considered unacceptable due to the suffering or humiliation it inflicts on the condemned person...

. The court upheld the law, ruling that making a crime of public intoxication was neither cruel nor unusual.

State public intoxication laws today

  • California
    California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

    : California Penal Code 647(f) considers public intoxication a misdemeanor
    A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

    . The code describes public intoxication as someone who displays intoxication to liquor, drugs, controlled substances or toluene
    Toluene, formerly known as toluol, is a clear, water-insoluble liquid with the typical smell of paint thinners. It is a mono-substituted benzene derivative, i.e., one in which a single hydrogen atom from the benzene molecule has been replaced by a univalent group, in this case CH3.It is an aromatic...

     and demonstrates an inability to care for themselves or others, or interferes or obstructs the free use of streets, sidewalks or other public way. California Penal Code 647(g) affords law enforcement the option to take an individual fitting the arrest criteria for 647(f), and no other crime, into civil protective custody if a "sobering facility" is available. Essentially, the detainee agrees to remain at the location until the facility's staff consents to their departure; usually after four hours and upon the belief that the detainee is safe to look after themselves. Not every municipality in California has such a facility. Also, if a person is being combative and/or is under the influence of drugs, they will be taken to jail. Unlike a person who is taken to jail, a civil detainee under 647(g) is not later prosecuted in a court of law.
  • Georgia
    Georgia (U.S. state)
    Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

    : In Georgia, public intoxication is a class B misdemeanor. Public intoxication is defined as a person who shall be and appear in an intoxicated condition 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, which condition is made manifest by boisterousness, by indecent condition or act, or by vulgar, profane, loud, or unbecoming language.
  • Indiana
    Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

    : In Indiana, public intoxication is a class B misdemeanor, punishable with up to 180 days in jail, and a $1000 dollar fine. The assessment of public intoxication is at the discretion of the arresting officer, who has the option, in addition to the citation, of detaining the individual in jail, or transporting the individual to his or her home or to the home of a responsible caretaker. (See IC 7.1-5-1-3, 12-23-15).
  • Iowa
    Iowa is a state located in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the "American Heartland". It derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many American Indian tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration. Iowa was a part of the French colony of New...

    : the Code of Iowa Sec 123.46 states that "a person shall not be intoxicated or simulate intoxication in a public place". Public Intoxication is a Simple Misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 30 days jail and a $1000 fine. Aggravated Public Intoxication (3rd or subsequent Offense) is an Aggravated Misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 2 years in prison. Most County Attorneys frown on arrests without some type of poor conduct. However this would not normally invite arrest unless the person had caused a nuisance or posed a danger to themselves or others.
  • Kansas
    Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

    : Being drunk in public in Kansas is not a criminal offense. Kansas statute 65-4059 states "No county or city shall adopt any local law, ordinance, resolution or regulation having the force of law rendering public intoxication by alcohol in and of itself or being a common drunkard or being found in enumerated places in an intoxicated condition, an offense, a violation, or the subject of criminal penalties."
  • Missouri
    Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

     has no state public intoxication law. Missouri's permissive alcohol laws
    Alcohol laws of Missouri
    The alcohol laws of Missouri are among the most permissive in the United States when compared to other U.S. states, though Nevada's and Louisiana's are similar...

     both protect people from suffering any criminal penalty (including arrest) for the mere act of being drunk in public, and prohibit local jurisdictions from enacting criminal public intoxication laws on their own.
  • Montana
    Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

     state law states that public intoxication is not a crime. However, the law allows law enforcement to take an intoxicated person home, or to detain them, if they are a danger to themselves or others. The law also states that no record can be made that indicates the person was arrested or detained for being intoxicated.
  • Nevada
    Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

     has no state public intoxication law. Nevada state law both protects people from suffering any criminal penalty (including arrest) for the mere act of being drunk in public, and prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting criminal public intoxication laws on their own.
  • Wisconsin
    Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

     also does not have a state public intoxication law although municipalities may pass city ordinances prohibiting public intoxication. Public intoxication is legal in Milwaukee, however, public drinking is not.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.