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How "Drunk" Must a Person be to Be Convicted of Public Intoxication?

Many adults in Ohio drink on occasion and it is perfectly legal to do so. However, if you get too intoxicated, there can be consequences — and more than simply a hangover the next day. Obviously, drinking too much and driving is illegal for good reason, but many people forget that simply being obviously drunk in public can lead to being arrested for violating public intoxication laws.

So how “drunk” do you have to be to be convicted of public intoxication? Moderate drinking — such as one or two drinks — is typically unlikely to lead to an arrest for public intoxication. However, “public intoxication” is a fairly subjective term and is based on your behavior rather than the number of drinks you’ve had.

The reality is that it’s left up to law enforcement to decide whether you’re drunk enough to arrest. A police officer has the ability to arrest you if you are annoying, inconveniencing, or harassing others, or putting others at the risk of physical harm, when there is any amount of alcohol in your system. Unlike a DUI offense, there is no “legal limit” BAC threshold for public intoxication.

A subjective assessment by law enforcement is all that is required, but generally you will need to be visibly impaired for police to arrest you. You may face arrest for public intoxication if you are:

  • Having trouble balancing
  • Demonstrating slurred speech or experiencing blurred vision
  • Stumbling or struggling to walk
  • Bothering others with drunken behavior

What If I Wasn’t That Drunk?

Of course, simply acting drunk isn’t necessarily enough to make drunk and disorderly charges stick. Some officers may ask you to take a BAC test for more evidence of your drunkenness, but “passing” a BAC test doesn’t necessarily get you off the hook. Even if you would be legal to drive, any alcohol in your system could be enough to charge you. Simply saying or even objectively proving that you had not consumed much alcohol is not enough on its own to get charges related to public intoxication dropped.

Even if you can prove that you weren’t that drunk, you may still face charges. An arrest for behavior that made you seem publicly intoxicated can be amended to a disorderly conduct charge if it turns out you weren’t drunk. Disorderly conduct charges can be hard to fight alone, as it will be your word against that of the police officer — who generally is given more credibility in court.

How a Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

Still, you can successfully fight public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges with the right legal strategy. You simply need to get the help of an experienced Columbus criminal defense lawyer.

At Luftman, Heck and Associates, our Columbus criminal defense lawyers have over a decade of experience fighting charges like these and obtaining the best possible outcomes for our clients. Call us right away at to schedule a free consultation and learn how we may be able to help.

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