Kentucky Public Intoxication Laws

Learn what can happen if you're found drunk or high in public in Kentucky.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 6/06/2024

Being drunk or high in public can lead to your arrest in Kentucky if you could hurt yourself or others or are causing a public disturbance.

Is Public Intoxication Illegal in Kentucky?

While simply being drunk or high in public isn't a crime, it becomes one when a person is:

  • "manifestly under the influence of" alcohol or a controlled substance, and
  • disturbing others or poses a danger to oneself, other persons, or property.

Kentucky law also prohibits drinking alcoholic beverages in a public place or public transportation vehicle.

When Is Someone Manifestly Under the Influence?

Smelling of alcohol or slight stumbling alone won't likely rise to the level of manifestly under the influence. However, someone who smells of alcohol and is loud, belligerent, stumbling all over the place, or picking fights could be arrested. Similarly, an officer may arrest someone who's so high they can't function.

When Is Someone a Danger to Persons or Property?

The person sitting alone in a park and not doing anything isn't likely a danger to oneself or others. But if that person is close to passing out, they may pose a danger to themselves. Police could arrest that person so they can sober up someplace safe.

Other examples where someone may be a danger to oneself or others include a person stumbling down the middle of a road, someone picking a fight in the street, or a person throwing beer bottles. However, a court decided that a cop couldn't arrest a person who was sleeping intoxicated on his porch because he wasn't a danger to himself or others.

What Is Considered a Public Place?

Police can arrest persons for public intoxication or drinking only if they are in a place that's open to the public, like a store, restaurant, business, school, or park. A place may be public even if it's privately owned, so long as it is generally accessible to the public. The law specifies that hallways, lobbies, and other portions of apartments and hotels that are common areas also qualify as public spaces.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 222.202, 222.10, 525.010 (2024); Maloney v. Kentucky, 489 S.W.3d 235 (Ky. 2016).)

What Is the Punishment for Public Intoxication in Kentucky?

The penalty for public intoxication depends on the type of intoxicant—alcohol or drugs.

Penalties for Alcohol Intoxication and Drinking in Public

A first or second offense for alcohol intoxication or drinking in public is a fine-only offense, with a minimum $25 fine.

Third and subsequent offenses committed within one year carry the possibility of 5 to 90 days jail time and a $25 to $100 fine. A judge can also order a person to attend treatment for these repeat offenders.

Penalties for Public Intoxication Relating to Drug Use

A person who's found guilty of public intoxication for drug use (alone or in combination with alcohol) commits a class B misdemeanor. This crime carries a maximum 90-day jail sentence and a $250 fine.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 222.990, 525.100 (2024).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

Being charged with public drunkenness can result in unpleasant consequences. If you are charged with a crime or violation involving alcohol or drugs, contact a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can protect your rights as you navigate the criminal justice system.

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