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Public intoxication charges and defenses

California residents who find themselves facing charges for public intoxication may be interested in considering how their case might be viewed in criminal court. A number of elements must usually be met in order for a public intoxication charge to be viable, and if one is not, then a legal defense could be raised that might potentially lead to a beneficial outcome for the charged individual.

In a public intoxication case, a prosecutor must prove that the defendant appeared to be drunk or intoxicated at the time that the incident happened and that the incident occurred in public. Although these elements may seem to be straightforward by definition, interpretation of the law may vary from state to state. It is important to note that an individual may not have to be intoxicated in order to appear to be so and that the demeanor and behavior of a given individual at a point in time could be an important component to any charges that might follow.

An individual who was neither intoxicated in a public place as accused nor acting that way may be able to raise this fact as an affirmative defense. In this situation, it would rest on the defendant to prove that excitement, enthusiasm, or some other behavior had been misinterpreted by authorities. A defense might be also raised if the incident in question did not occur in a public place. An individual who is cited in a municipality or state that does not criminalize public intoxication could raise this defense as appropriate.

Although public intoxication charges are usually misdemeanors, the negative consequences associated with a conviction could make it advisable for people to seek help from a criminal defense attorney. Upon a review of the case, the attorney could develop various strategies to combat the charge.

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John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.