Drunk in Public / Public Intoxication: Virginia Misdemeanor Criminal Offense

What is public intoxication law in Virginia? Drunk in Public or Public Intoxication is the Virginia criminal misdemeanor charge for public displays of drunkenness. Virginia law 18.2-388 punishes drunk behavior in public places. A conviction for public intoxication, or for being drunk in public, is punished by a criminal record and a fine.

Public Intoxication / Drunk in Public charges are criminal offenses, not just tickets. If you pay the fine online you are in effect pleading guilty to the charge. As such, if you wish to avoid a conviction for this crime, you should review your case with a Virginia attorney experienced in Public Intoxication defense.

THE CRIME OF BEING DRUNK IN PUBLIC

Individuals accused of being drunk in public are arrested by police and held until sober. They are then released from the jail with a ticket, summons, or recognizance. Public intoxication is described by some officers as “just a ticket that you can prepay.” This oversimplification ignores the most important element of the “ticket” – that if you pay the fine, you are pleading guilty to the misdemeanor criminal offense. You will not be able to reverse this.

VA Drunk in Public / Public Intoxication Law Explained

Virginia drunk in public law is found in Virginia Law § 18.2-388. The law states that if any person is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug, or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, is committing a Class 4 misdemeanor offense.

As with any criminal matter, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged with this crime is, in fact, drunk or cursed in a public area. The prosecution must prove two essential elements to convict you of being drunk in public: 1) the crime took place in public, and 2) that you were intoxicated.

Virginia courts define the meaning of “in public,” as a place in open view, visible to the community. This includes an outdoor area owned by you but that is visible to others, such as a porch or a front yard. Virginia has a wide-reaching view of what is public.

A person is “intoxicated” under Virginia law only if he has drunk enough alcoholic beverages to observably affect his manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance, or behavior. This part of the accusation provides some argument leeway. The police officer must testify that he observed you behaving in a manner consistent with an intoxicated person – some outward signs of having consumed alcohol. Thus, the strong smell of alcohol alone is not enough to show that someone is intoxicated for the purposes of this law.

Police do not have to give you a breath test to determine if in fact you were intoxicated under the VA charge. It is enough for you to exhibit intoxicated behavior.

In order to justify an arrest for Public Intoxication, the Commonwealth must prove the odor of alcohol on a person’s breath, coupled with other circumstances, such as suspicious behavior, speech, or appearance.

Public Intoxication is a criminal offense punished by the entry of a criminal record and a maximum fine of $250. This law is also found in the local county and city codes under local law sections in Fairfax (5-1-1), Alexandria (13-1-5), Arlington (17-7), and Vienna (10-34).

An additional penalty for a criminal conviction of public drunkenness, which is commonly overlooked, is the disqualification for a concealed handgun permit under Virginia law for a period of 3 years. Moreover, substance abuse treatment in a residential setting will increase that period of disqualification to 5 years.


Virginia Public Intoxication Penalty Table

LocalityCode SectionCriminal Classification
Virginia18.2-388Class 4 Misdemeanor
Arlington17-7Class 4 Misdemeanor
Fairfax5-1-1Class 4 Misdemeanor
Alexandria13-1-5Class 4 Misdemeanor
Vienna10-34Class 4 Misdemeanor

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This article is written by Virginia public intoxication defense attorney Marina Medvin, an award-winning defense lawyer serving Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington, VA. She successfully represents individuals charged with public intoxication crimes in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Vienna and Falls Church. Please call for a Virginia drunk in public attorney consultation request.


Drunk in Public Charge at the DCA Airport DISMISSED

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: A misdemeanor charge under Va Law 18.2-388 for acting Drunk in Public at the DCA Airport resulted in a DISMISSAL at the first court appearance. Read more about Arlington criminal defense lawyer Marina Medvin, who represented this client and achieved this result. Courthouse: Arlington [...]

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Arlington VA Public Intoxication Arrest Case DISMISSED

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL LAWYER CASE RESULT: Class 4 misdemeanor charge for Public Intoxication resulted in DISMISSAL of the charges. Read more about Arlington criminal defense lawyer Marina Medvin, who represented this client and achieved this result. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. Read more about Drunk [...]

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Arlington VA Drunk in Public Charge DROPPED For Insufficient Evidence

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Arlington County Police misdemeanor charge for Drunk in Public resulted in DROPPED CHARGES at the first hearing based on insufficient evidence to prosecute. Read more about Arlington criminal defense attorney Marina Medvin, who represented this client and achieved this result. Courthouse: Arlington General [...]

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Public Intoxication Charge DISMISSED in Alexandria VA

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Class 4 Misdemeanor Public Intoxication charge for allegations of drunken behavior while paying bond for another inmate held at the Alexandria Adult Detention Center resulted in DISMISSAL at the first hearing for insufficient evidence. Read more about Drunk in Public Law here: VIRGINIA DRUNK [...]

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Alexandria Virginia Drunk in Public Charge DISMISSED For Insufficient Evidence

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL LAWYER CASE RESULT: Drunk in Public charge in Alexandria VA, a class 4 misdemeanor offense, resulted in DISMISSAL at the first hearing for insufficient evidence. Read more about Drunk in Public Law here: VIRGINIA DRUNK IN PUBLIC LAW | A criminal defense lawyer’s explanation of drunk in [...]

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Trespass and Public Intoxication Charges DISMISSED for Insufficient Evidence

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Misdemeanor charges of Trespass and Public Intoxication were both DISMISSED for insufficient evidence. Read more about Alexandria criminal defense attorney Marina Medvin, who represented this client and achieved this result.

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Drunk in Public in Old Town Alexandria Charge DISMISSED

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Old Town Alexandria VA arrest for Drunk in Public resulted in DISMISSAL at the first hearing.   Read more about Drunk in Public Law here: VIRGINIA DRUNK IN PUBLIC LAW | A criminal defense lawyer’s explanation of drunk in public charges and arrest [...]

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Reagan Airport Drunk In Public Charge DISMISSED in Arlington VA

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Reagan National Airport (DCA), Metropolitan Washington Airport Police charge for Drunk in Public resulted in DISMISSAL of the charge at the first hearing. Read more about Arlington criminal defense attorney Marina Medvin, who represented this client and achieved this result. Courthouse: Arlington General [...]

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Virginia Public Intoxication Conviction DISMISSED on Appeal

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Prior to being represented by counsel, the client represented himself and was found guilty of misdemeanor Public Intoxication. Upon hiring attorney Medvin and appealing the conviction, the client’s destiny was reversed and the charge was set for dismissal instead of conviction. Read more [...]

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Alexandria Public Urination and Public Intoxication Charges DROPPED

ALEXANDRIA, VA Misdemeanor charges for Public Urination under City of Alexandria Code 13-1-30 and Public Intoxication under City of Alexandria Code 13-1-5 were both DROPPED at the first hearing. Read more about Drunk in Public Law here: VIRGINIA DRUNK IN PUBLIC LAW | A criminal defense lawyer’s explanation of drunk in public charges [...]

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Arlington VA Misdemeanor Drunk in Public 17-7 Charge DROPPED for Insufficient Evidence

ARLINGTON, VA: Public Intoxication misdemeanor charge under VA Code 18.2-388 / Arlington Code 17-7 was DROPPED for insufficient evidence to prosecute. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. County of Arlington: § 17-7. Public Intoxication and Profanity. A. It shall be unlawful for any [...]

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Fairfax Drunk in Public Charges DROPPED

Fairfax, Virginia: Drunk in Public / Public Intoxication misdemeanor charge under Virginia Law 18.2-388 and Fairfax County Code 5-1-1, resulted in DROPPED charges at the first hearing. The client was able to maintain a clean record. Fairfax County: Section 5-1-1. – Drunkenness and profane swearing. (a) If any person profanely curse [...]

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VA Drunk in Public Charge DROPPED for Insufficient Evidence

ARLINGTON, VA: Drunk in Public misdemeanor charge under VA Code 18.2-388 / Arlington Code 17-7 was DROPPED for insufficient evidence to prosecute. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. Read more about Drunk in Public Law here: VIRGINIA DRUNK IN PUBLIC LAW | A [...]

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Arlington VA Drunk in Public Charge DROPPED for Insufficient Evidence

ARLINGTON VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Drunk in Public charge under VA Code 18.2-388 / Arlington Code 17-7 was DROPPED for insufficient evidence to prosecute. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. Read more about Drunk in Public Law here: VIRGINIA DRUNK IN [...]

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Alexandria Public Intoxication Charges DROPPED for Insufficient Evidence

Alexandria Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Case Result:Teacher charged with Class 4 Misdemeanor charge for Drunk in Public – Va Law 18.2-388, Alexandria Code 13-1-5 – charges DROPPED at the first court appearance for INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE. Courthouse: City of Alexandria General District Court District Court, 520 King St, Alexandria, Virginia Read [...]

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Arlington VA Drunk in Public AMENDED, NO Criminal Record

ARLINGTON VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Drunk in Public charge under VA Code 18.2-388 / Arlington Code 17-7, was AMENDED and REDUCED to a non-alcohol related local citation for Failing to ID. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. Read more about Drunk [...]

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Drunk in Public Fairfax VA Charges DROPPED

FAIRFAX VA CRIMINAL ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Drunk in Public in Fairfax VA, a Misdemeanor Charge under VA Code 18.2-388 and Fairfax County Code 5-1-1, for behaving Drunk in Public in Fairfax County, resulted in DROPPED charges. Fairfax County General District Court at 4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, Virginia. Read more [...]

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Fairfax Public Intoxication Charges w/ Prior Record Results in DROPPED Charges

FAIRFAX VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY RESULT: Public Intoxication, a Misdemeanor Charge under VA Code 18.2-388 and Fairfax County Code 5-1-1, for behaving Drunk in Public in Fairfax County,resulted in DROPPED charges – notwithstanding client’s record of prior alcohol-related offenses. Fairfax County General District Court at 4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, [...]

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Arlington Virginia Drunk in Public Charge AMENDED to Trespass, and that Trespass Charge Scheduled for DISMISSAL

ARLINGTON VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Drunk in Public charge under VA Code 18.2-388 was AMENDED to non-alcohol related charge of Trespass. The new Trespass charge was scheduled for DISMISSAL after good behavior. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. Read more about [...]

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Disorderly Conduct Charge in Arlington VA DROPPED

ARLINGTON VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Disorderly Conduct Class 1 misdemeanor charge was DROPPED. Related Public Intoxication charge resulted in a fine. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. § 18.2-415. Disorderly conduct in public places. A person is guilty of disorderly conduct [...]

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City of Alexandria Open Container of Alcohol – Misdemeanor DISMISSED

Alexandria Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Case Result:Class 4 Misdemeanor charge for Possession of Open Container of Alcohol in a Public Place – Alexandria Code 13-1-5.1 – was DISMISSED without client needing to appear. Courthouse: City of Alexandria General District Court District Court, 520 King St, Alexandria, Virginia Sec. 13-1-5.1 – [...]

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Resisting Arrest, Obstruction of Justice, Public Intoxication Charges DROPPED

Alexandria Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Result:Class 1 Misdemeanor charges for Resisting Arrest (Va Law 18.2-460(E)), Obstruction of Justice (Va Law 18.2-460(C)), Dunk in Public (Va Code 18.2-388) charges were ALL DROPPED in exchange to a plea of Not Guilty to a local city ordinance violation for loud conduct. Courthouse: City [...]

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Failure to Pay Cab Driver Charge & Public Intoxication, Charges DROPPED

ALEXANDRIA VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT:Client was facing criminal charges for an incident with an Uber driver. Class 1 jailable Misdemeanor Failure to Pay for Rental Vehicle with intent to Defraud under Va Code 18.2-206 and a Class 4 Public Intoxication charge (Va Law 18.2-388, Alexandria Code 13-1-5). Both [...]

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Alexandria Virginia Drunk in Public Arrest Charges DROPPED

Alexandria Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Case Result:Class 4 Misdemeanor charge for Drunk in Public – Va Law 18.2-388, Alexandria Code 13-1-5 – was DROPPED at the first court appearance. Courthouse: City of Alexandria General District Court District Court, 520 King St, Alexandria, Virginia Read more about Drunk in Public Law [...]

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Arlington VA Drunk in Public Charge DROPPED

ARLINGTON COUNTY VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Drunk in Public, a Misdemeanor Charge under VA Code 18.2-388 and Arlington County Code 17-7, resulted in charges DROPPED for insufficient evidence. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. Read more about Drunk in Public Law [...]

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Arlington VA Public Intoxication Not Guilty Plea Results in DISMISSAL

ARLINGTON COUNTY VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Not Guilty plea to Public Intoxication, a Misdemeanor Charge under VA Code 18.2-388 and Arlington County Code 17-7 resulted in expected DISMISSAL of the charges after community service. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. Read [...]

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Trial for Public Intoxication in Fairfax Virginia Results in DISMISSAL of Charge

FAIRFAX VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY RESULT: Trial for Public Intoxication, a Misdemeanor Charge under VA Code 18.2-366 and Fairfax County Code 5-1-1, for behaving drunk in public and for insulting law enforcement officers, resulted in DISMISSAL of the charges. Fairfax County General District Court at 4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, [...]

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Disorderly Conduct & Public Intoxication in Arlington VA Charges DROPPED

ARLINGTON COUNTY VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CASE RESULT: Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication, both misdemeanor charges, DROPPED. Courthouse: Arlington General District Court District Court, 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington Virginia. § 18.2-415. Disorderly conduct in public places. A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause [...]

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Open Container Charge in Old Town Alexandria DISMISSED

ALEXANDRIA VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY RESULT: Misdemeanor Open Container charge, for standing outside of a bar with a beer can, under the Alexandria city code 13-1-5.1, was DISMISSED. City of Alexandria General District Court at 520 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314. City of Alexandria Code: Sec. 13-1-5.1 – Possession of [...]

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City of Fairfax Public Intoxication Misdemeanor Charge DROPPED at First Hearing

CITY OF FAIRFAX VIRGINIA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY RESULT: Public Intoxication Misdemeanor Charge, VA Code 18.2-366 and City of Fairfax Code 54-228, for behaving intoxicated and urinating in public, was DROPPED at first hearing. City of Fairfax General District Court,10455 Armstrong Street, Fairfax, VA 22030. Sec. 54-228. Intoxication in public If [...]

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DRUNK IN PUBLIC FAQ

What is drunk in public? What is public intoxication?

Public intoxication, also known as Drunk in Public is a criminal, jailable offense in Virginia for the bodily display of drunkenness in a public place. This means you can be arrested for Drunk in Public if you behave or appear intoxicated while being in a place open to public view.

Yes, Drunk in Public a misdemeanor. It is a Class 4 Misdemeanor criminal offense under Virginia law.

Yes and no. Under Virginia law, you can and will go to jail for a public intoxication misdemeanor offense when you are arrested for the offense. However, Virginia law does not impose additional jail time as punishment for the misdemeanor charge upon conviction.

Yes, however, doing so solidifies your criminal conviction under Virginia law. While the penalty will be just a fine and costs, the cost of a criminal conviction for professionals (such as teachers, doctors, lawyers) or people who hold a clearance (such as government contractors, military personnel or government employees) will be much higher than just a conviction.

Yes, if convicted, Drunk in Public / Public Intoxication will go on your record and remain as a criminal misdemeanor conviction. Once a conviction takes place, if you are outside the window to appeal the conviction, you will not be able to do anything about it. A conviction for a Drunk in Public charge is not subject to expungement under Virginia law. If you do not want to have a criminal conviction on your record, you need to consult a criminal defense lawyer to discuss representation and outcome options.

Yes, a lawyer can work on your case and obtain an outcome of not guilty or dismissal. A lawyer cannot predict your case outcome, nor can a lawyer guarantee a result, but a criminal lawyer can certainly try her best to reach your desired outcome. If you do not want to have a criminal conviction on your record, you need to consult a criminal defense lawyer to discuss representation and your legal options.

 

 


Northern Virginia Public Intoxication Laws

VA Code 18.2-388 is the State law. Northern Virginia localities have adopted their own versions of the Virginia law as well. Some of the statutory wording differs, thereby changing the way that the law applies. Below are the relavant provisions:

Fairfax County: Section 5-1-1. – Drunkenness and profane swearing.
(a) If any person profanely curse or swear or be drunk in public he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.
(b) If any person shall be convicted for being drunk in public three (3) times within one (1) year, such person shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

City of Alexandria: Sec. 13-1-5 – Public intoxication.
If any person is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, he shall be deemed guilty of a class 4 misdemeanor.

County of Arlington: § 17-7. Public Intoxication and Profanity.
A. It shall be unlawful for any person to be intoxicated or to profanely curse or swear in any public place in the County.
B. For the purposes of this section, “intoxicated” shall mean a condition in which a person has consumed enough alcoholic beverages, narcotic drugs, or other intoxicants or drugs of whatever nature, to observably affect his manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance, or behavior.
C. Any person convicted of such public intoxication or profanity shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

Town of Vienna: Sec. 10-34. – Drunkenness.
If any person is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.


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