New York Public Intoxication Laws

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

New York has a law against public intoxication due to drugs, but merely being drunk in public is not a crime.

For more information on public intoxication laws generally, see Public Intoxication Laws and Penalties.

People in New York who are in public and drive under the influence (DUI) or commit other crimes while intoxicated can still be convicted and punished for those crimes.

Protective Custody

A police officer may take a person who is intoxicated (substantially impaired) due to alcohol or drugs to the person's home or a treatment facility, but only if the person consents.

If a person is incapacitated (unconscious or unable to make rational decisions about the person's need for treatment), a police officer may take the person to a hospital or other facility for emergency care and treatment. The officer does not need an incapacitated person's consent.

However, if a person is taken into protective custody against the person's will, a doctor must examine the person as soon as possible. The person can be kept in protective custody onlyif the doctor determines that the person poses a danger to him or herself or others. People must be released from protective custody when no longer dangerous or after 48 hours, whichever occurs first.

(N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law § 22.09.)

Public Intoxication Due to Drugs

In New York, a person commits a crime by appearing in public under the influence of narcotics or some other drug (other than alcohol) if the person:

  • poses a danger to him or herself
  • poses a danger to others
  • poses a danger to property, or
  • annoys others.

A place is public if it is open to everyone or to a substantial group of people. A person on a street or highway is in public even if the person is inside a private vehicle.

(N.Y. Pen. Law § § 240.00, 240.40.)

For example, a couple that is sitting in their car on a public street, high on drugs, and fighting could be convicted of public intoxication.


Public intoxication due to drugs is a violation, punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a fine of up to $250.

(N.Y. Pen. Law § § 70.15, 80.05, 240.40.)

Seeking Legal Advice

If you are charged with public intoxication or any other crime related to drugs or alcohol, you should contact a New York criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell you how your case is likely to fare in court depending on the law and the particular facts of your case. With an attorney's help, you can prepare the strongest possible defense and protect your rights.

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