It is not illegal to be drunk or intoxicated in public, but it is against the law to create an issue, problem or other disturbance in public while you are under the influence of alcohol.
Public drunkenness, or public intoxication, is neither a disorderly persons offense nor a petty disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, but instead it is governed by town and borough ordinances. Although just an ordinance, if you are faced with committing this offense, it is best to engage the services of an experienced lawyer to try to lessen the effect.
Public Drunkenness in More Detail
When the term “public” is used in a legal sense, it refers to the city streets, sidewalks, parks, recreational halls or areas open to the public, restaurants and bars. If you are drunk on your own personal property, such as house, apartment, garage or backyard, you are not technically drunk in public. However, if you are in your front yard or on your front porch, you can be charged with violating a drunk in public ordinance.
In New Jersey, you also cannot have open containers of alcohol on public streets, sidewalks or in parks. You cannot have an open container of alcohol on your front porch, yard or steps. Drinking has to be done inside, such as in a restaurant, bar or nightclub, or in the confines of a private home or backyard. Once you emerge onto public property and are intoxicated, you can be charged with an additional ordinance violation.
For example, it is not illegal for you to enter a bar in Seaside Heights and have several drinks. It is also not illegal for you to become intoxicated while in the bar. However, once you walk out onto the streets of the town, if you engage in disruptive, aggressive, loud or lewd behavior due to the presence of alcohol in your system, you can be charged with public drunkenness. You are not technically breaking the law by being drunk. You are breaking the law because of the behavior you are exhibiting in public while you are drunk.
You cannot become overly loud by yelling, screaming or singing in public while under the influence of alcohol. You cannot become verbally or physically aggressive while under the influence of alcohol. You cannot engage in explicit or lewd sexual conduct or behavior while under the influence of alcohol. These behaviors will all lead to the charge of public drunkenness.
Penalties for Public Drunkenness in NJ
If you are found guilty of a public drunkenness, the penalties can be as little as a fine but as much as the addition of jail time or community service. Each New Jersey town may have different penalties in their respective town codes, so it is advised that you contact a lawyer after being issued an ordinance violation in New Jersey. The penalties become more serious if you have a previous record or if this is not your first drunk and disorderly offense.
Legal Representation for Public Drunkenness
A lawyer with ordinance violation experience can help you fight the charge of public drunkenness. They may be able to successfully argue down the offense or even show that it did not take place in a public place. They may be able to get jail time or fines waived on the condition that you attend AA meetings or some other counseling program for alcohol abuse or dependency. If you have been charged with public drunkenness in Ocean County or Monmouth County, contact Villani & DeLuca today. The firm's attorneys are available to assist you in your defense of this charge.