Compared to most states, Missouri has very liberal liquor laws, and public intoxication is a crime under state law only in certain limited circumstances. Many local governments, however, have passed their own ordinances that regulate public drinking.
For more information on public intoxication laws generally, see Public Intoxication Laws and Penalties.
It’s important to keep in mind that people who are intoxicated in public and are driving a motor vehicle or operating any other machinery or vehicular equipment while intoxicated can be arrested and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) or similar crimes.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 67.310.)
State Regulation of Drunkenness or Drinking in School, Church, or Court
Unlike many states, Missouri has no general state law against being intoxicated in public, or even drinking in public. But state law does address drinking or being drunk and obnoxious in schools, church, or court.
Under Missouri’s law, it is a crime to be intoxicated and disorderly, or to drink alcohol (or offer to drink alcohol) in any:
- occupied school
- occupied church, or
Courthouses are permitted to allow social events after business hours.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 574.075.)
For example, a person who appeared at a court hearing or at a school event and was drunk and yelling could be convicted of public intoxication, as could a person who drank alcohol from a flask during a church service. However, a person who was drunk and yelling or drinking beer on a public street could not be prosecuted under this law, so long as the person was not committing any other crime.
In Missouri, cities and counties can regulate the sale and possession of alcohol to certain times, places, and people. For instance, they may forbid drinking in public spaces, including in parks, or on sidewalks and streets.
(See, for example, St. Louis City Rev. Code § 14.05.010; Kansas City Code of Ordinances § 50-152.)
However, cities and counties cannot pass local laws requiring that people be arrested or punished for public intoxication.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 67.305, 67.310.)
Under Missouri’s laws, a police officer may take an intoxicated or incapacitated person to the person’s home, a treatment facility, or any other appropriate facility, including the local jail, for up to 12 hours. If an officer takes a person into protective custody, the officer is immune from prosecution for false arrest as long as there is reason to believe the person is intoxicated and the officer does not use excessive force.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 67.315.)
Public intoxication is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 557.021, 558.011, 560.016, 574.075.)
The punishment for violating a local ordinance varies.
Obtaining Legal Advice and Representation
If you are arrested for public intoxication, you should contact a Missouri criminal defense attorney. A criminal conviction, even for a minor offense, can have serious consequences, including time in jail, a fine, and a criminal record, which can make it difficult to obtain employment. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and obtain the best possible outcome.