Laws punishing public intoxication vary widely among states. This article discusses Mississippi's public intoxication law, but other alcohol-related issues may also apply to your case. For example, someone at a bar who has too much to drink, gets angry, and hits someone might also face assault charges. If that person leaves the bar and tries to drive, the driver can be arrested for drunk driving. Other laws apply to being under the influence of illegal drugs.
To learn about your state's laws on other alcohol related crimes, start with Crimes and Penalties by State.
In Mississippi, it is illegal for someone to be drunk in a public place in the presence of two or more other people. It is also a crime drink alcohol or to be intoxicated on public transportation.
(MS. Ann. Code § 97-29-47.)
Public intoxication is a misdemeanor, and incurs a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, or both. In addition to these penalties, a judge may sentence second and subsequent offenders to take part in a treatment program.
(MS. Ann. Code § 41-30-19.)
There are several potential defenses to public intoxication charges in Mississippi. Most of these focus on showing that there is little or no evidence to support one or more of the elements of the offense, as explained above. Some common examples are explained below.
Not intoxicated. A defendant may argue that he was not intoxicated at the time of the arrest. But because juries and judges tend to believe the testimony of the arresting officer, this defense can be hard to substantiate unless the defendant has concrete evidence (such as a blood alcohol test) showing that he was not intoxicated.
Not a public place. Another potential defense is showing that the arrest was not made in a public place, or that the defendant was involuntarily in a public place at the time of arrest. For example, a defendant may not be ordered out of his home by a law enforcement officer and onto the sidewalk, and then arrested for public intoxication.
Fewer than two others present. The defendant may also present evidence that there were fewer than two others present when the defendant was intoxicated in public.
If you are charged with violating a public intoxication law, even if the consequences are relatively mild, consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with how these cases are handled in your area. This is especially important if you have already been convicted for alcohol-related offenses, as the applicable penalties may increase. An experienced attorney can help you understand the charges against you, explain your options, discuss possible defenses you may raise, and protect your rights.