Can you be arrested for walking while drunk?

Recently I've had a couple of cases where intoxicated individuals have been arrested even though they weren't driving. It might sound like a silly question, but the truth is you CAN be arrested for walking while drunk.

The actual offense is Public Intoxication. Fortunately, it's only a Class C misdemeanor, which means you only get a ticket. Unfortunately, you can also be taken to jail. 

The offense of public intoxication involves more than appearing intoxicated in public. You also must be a danger to yourself or others. The typical situation involves someone on the road, or out in a public place. Someone might be at a party, and decide to do the responsible thing and not drive home. They decide to walk, but don't do it very well. Maybe they're walking in the street, or maybe they don't have a clue on how to get home. The police are notified, and have a choice. Do they let the person go, and possibly get hit, or cause an accident, or do they get them off the street. You can guess the decision they usually make. What happens next varies. Some officers might allow you to find someone to come get you. Others might just take you to jail to sleep it off. The next morning you are free to leave, and will told when to show up in court.

Public intoxication is very subjective. Tests are rarely given, so there is no evidence as to how intoxicated you are. Unlike DWI, you are presumed to be intoxicated when you reach a certain level. Instead, it's up the officer to determine if you pose a danger to yourself our others.

If you're thinking you can't win, you might be right. You certainly don't want to get behind the wheel, but you might still get arrested if you try to walk home. The good news is that it won't be as serious. So, the lesson is find a friend, or call an Uber.

Walter Reaves
Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 30 years.