Pennsylvania Public Intoxication Laws

In Pennsylvania, public intoxication is a crime, but only if the defendant endangers or inconveniences other people.

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

Public Drunkenness

In Pennsylvania, people commit the offense of public drunkenness by appearing in public under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (except drugs taken by prescription) when they are so intoxicated that they pose a danger:

  • to themselves or others
  • to property, or
  • of annoying others.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 5505.)

For example, a drunken person alone in a city park who poses no danger to him or herself or anyone else, and no danger of annoying anyone else, could not be arrested or prosecuted for public drunkenness.

Public or Private?

A place may be public even if it is privately owned, so long as it is generally accessible to the public. For example, a person who was staggering drunk down the street of a gated, and therefore somewhat private, neighborhood may be found guilty of public drunkenness. In contrast, a private club that is open only to its members is not a public place, and a person who is stumbling drunk and harassing people inside a private club cannot be guilty of public drunkenness.

(Commonwealth v. Whritenour, 751 A.2d 687 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2000); Commonwealth v. Meyer, 431 A.2d 287 (1981).)

Punishment

Public drunkenness is punishable by a fine of up to $500. Subsequent offenses are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 5505.)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

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

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