Public Intoxication is illegal in Virginia. Code Section 18.2-388 states, in pertinent part:
If any person profanely curses or swears or 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.
The First Amendment applies and supersedes any criminal statute. It seems unlikely that merely cursing or swearing in public would constitute a violation of this statute unless there was obscenity and incitement at play. But, it is illegal to be in public while drunk, or intoxicated. And being in public is defined not as being on a public street, for example, but being in a place in public view. This means that a person who is inebriated on their front porch visibly intoxicated to any passerby is violating Section 18.2-388.
In practice, police officers typically charge DIP (Drunk in Public) when the intoxicated person is belligerent, creating a disturbance, or is unable to care for himself. If you are charged with DIP, you will likely be arrested and spend the night in jail, released once you are sober. Even though this offense carries only a fine as a penalty, you will still be jailed until you are sober in most instances.
If you are charged with Public Intoxication (aka Drunk in Public or DIP) contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney today. Remember, there are defenses to public intoxication. First, just because an individual has been drinking does not mean they are intoxicated. Secondly, a person could be mistaken as intoxicated when in reality they are experiencing a physical or mental condition that is the cause of their demeanor and behavior. Lastly, being obnoxious, loud, or aggressive (assuming that is the case) does not equate to drunkenness per se.
Disorderly Conduct is another behavioral offense punishable in Virginia as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Click here to read Virginia's Disorderly Conduct statute. In its essence, Disorderly Conduct occurs when an individual incites violence in public. There are significant First Amendment free speech implications at issue when this statute is being prosecuted by the Commonwealth. Citizens have the right to protest, to express dissent, and to express frustration at law enforcement – just because an individual is rude, belligerent and even personally offensive, does not equate to a per se violation of the statute. Be clear, it is illegal and punishable to incite violence, promote or cause a riot, or act in a way likely to trigger social unrest and criminal conduct – but it is not illegal to engage in righteous First Amendment activity. Disorderly Conduct is often charged against an individual when in reality they are engaging in constitutionally protected speech. If you are charged with Disorderly Conduct, contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer. George Freeman has extensive experience with the Disorderly Conduct statute and will gladly meet with you to discuss your case.