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How Much Is a Ticket for Public Intoxication in Virginia?

Under Virginia code section 18.2-388, a person who is visibly intoxicated may face a Class 4 misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $250. However, there is more to public intoxication charges than the possibility of a fine. Learn more about Virginia’s public intoxication laws below. 

Virginia has some of the strictest public intoxication and disorderly conduct laws in the United States. Unlike most other states, Virginia law makes public intoxication illegal. 

If a loved one faces a public intoxication charge, you may have many questions about the potential repercussions. Your first question is likely: “How much is a ticket for public intoxication in Virginia?”

In this post, our team at Apex Bail Bonds discusses public intoxication in Virginia, the potential penalties, and the defenses that may be available against this charge. 

Public Intoxication in Virginia – Overview

The official term for public intoxication in Virginia is “profane swearing and intoxication in public,” a Class 4 misdemeanor. In other words, drinking alcohol and becoming intoxicated is not a crime in Virginia, provided you are not in public. 

For example, suppose Person ‘A’ sits in front of their television and drinks several alcoholic beverages. At some point during the evening, an intoxicated ‘A’ walks down the street to a liquor store one block away to buy more alcohol. 

A police officer walks past and notices that ‘A’s movements are uncoordinated, indicating intoxication. The police officer arrests ‘A’ and files a charge of public intoxication. 

Is this arrest lawful? Below, we unpack the requirements for a public intoxication charge. 

What Is Intoxication?

“Intoxication” is the first requirement for a public intoxication charge. Public intoxication differs from a DUI in that the police don’t need a blood alcohol test to prove intoxication. A person’s behaviors are sufficient evidence. 

The police can file a charge against anyone with physical symptoms of intoxication, such as coordination and balance impairments, loud and slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or aggression. 

Under Virginia law, intoxication can be due to alcohol or drug consumption. Someone publicly under the influence of central nervous system depressants, stimulants, inhalants, cannabis, or hallucinogens may face a public intoxication charge. 

What Is a Public Place?

The second requirement for a public intoxication charge is that the person must be in public. Virginia courts established that “in public” refers to any place in plain public view or accessible by the general community. Public places include an outdoor area that someone owns privately but is visible to others, such as a front yard or porch. 

Public Swearing – A Separate Charge

Public profanity has been illegal in Virginia and the commonwealth since 1792. Like public intoxication, public profanity is a Class 4 misdemeanor, “profane swearing and intoxication in public.”

However, while these offenses, namely public profanity and public intoxication, are the same misdemeanor, they carry separate charges. In other words, when someone is visibly intoxicated in public and uses loud, colorful language, they will face two separate misdemeanor charges. 

How Much Is a Public Intoxication Fine?

How much is a ticket for public intoxication in Virginia? At the start of this article, we mentioned that public intoxication carries a fine of up to $250. Depending on the municipal law, someone with a previous alcohol- or drug-related conviction may face a fine of up to $500. 

Note that public intoxication is not a jailable offense in Virginia. However, a police officer can arrest and hold an intoxicated person until sober. Then, they will release the arrestee with a summons or ticket. 

Someone facing this charge may consider paying the fine to resolve the matter and continue their lives. However, paying this fine is an admission of guilt, which will result in a conviction on the defendant’s criminal record. 

Defenses Against a Public Intoxication Charge

Even though a public intoxication conviction has relatively light penalties, it can have far-reaching consequences. For example, a criminal record can prevent someone from working in their field of study. If someone also has a DUI conviction, the Commonwealth Attorney’s office can petition for an interdict that makes it illegal for them to possess or buy alcohol. 

Various defense strategies are available against public intoxication charges. For example, if the police didn’t take someone’s BAC levels, and there is no bodycam footage or witness accounts, the defense may argue that the person was sober. 

The defense may also ask the court to dismiss the charge if: 

  • The defendant didn’t pose a risk or danger to the public
  • The physical symptoms of intoxication were mild
  • The intoxication symptoms were side-effects of legally prescribed medication

Someone arrested for public intoxication should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to avoid a fine and criminal record. 

Penalties for Related Offenses in Virginia

Someone who is arrested for public intoxication may also face any of the following charges, depending on the circumstances of the specific case:

  • Disorderly conduct on grounds and interference with officers: This Class 1 misdemeanor is when someone behaves disorderly at a hospital or training center. 
  • Abusive language: Directing public insults, name-calling, slandering, or harassment towards someone is a Class 3 misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $500. 
  • Obstructing others’ free passage: Preventing members of the public from accessing communal spaces or property is a Class 1 misdemeanor that can carry a fine of up to $2,500. 

Affordable 24/7 Bail Bonds – Speak to a Local Bail Bondsman Today

Is your friend or family member facing multiple charges, such as public intoxication, obstruction of justice, or driving under the influence? An arrest can happen to anyone, and your loved one deserves to continue with their case outside the jail. 

Don’t use your life savings to post bail for public intoxication. Instead, let our reputable team at Apex Bail Bonds post a bond on your loved one’s behalf and secure their release from jail. Our bail bond services are available 24/7, including weekends, and our fees are as low as state law allows. We also offer customizable payment plans.

Contact our compassionate and experienced bail bondsmen today.

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