What is Public Intoxication?

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Everyone generally has their own opinion about the laws we must abide by in the United States. You might find some laws ridiculous and others reasonable, but you may also be aware that most laws are created for a reason. The members of the Tennessee legislature certainly don’t simply enact a law, because they need something to do. Rather, laws of all kinds are generally passed as a reaction to something that has happened or is happening in our society. With respect to laws involving alcohol, most of our laws are severe due to the damage that an intoxicated individual can inflict on society.

This fact is demonstrated by the estimated 29 people that died every day in 2016 as a result of a drunk driving accident, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), or the 3,423 fatalities that occurred in Tennessee from 2003 to 2012 due to drunk driving accidents, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Moreover, you don’t have to drink and drive for drinking alcohol to be a dangerous or even deadly activity. The CDC estimates that from 2006 to 2010 an average of 88,000 people died per year due to excessive alcohol consumption, and excessive alcohol consumption cost the state of Tennessee over 4.6 billion dollars in 2010. These factors are why being intoxicated in public is a crime in the state of Tennessee.

Public Intoxication Laws in Tennessee

The public intoxication laws in Tennessee are written broadly and include text that captures all intoxicating substances, not just alcohol. Many criminal laws in Knoxville, TN are written in a similar manner to make them applicable in many situations. A person commits the crime of public intoxication if they appear in a public place under the influence of a controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, or any other intoxicating substance to the degree that:

  • The offender may be endangered or
  • There is an endangerment to other persons or property or
  • The offender unreasonably annoys other people in the vicinity

The important thing for you to remember is that the crime of public intoxication is dependent upon your level of intoxication. It does not mean that you can be arrested for a minimal or even mild amount of intoxication, but rather, you must be intoxicated to the point to where you cause a public annoyance to others, or you pose a threat to your wellbeing, the wellbeing of others, or public or private property.

Penalties for Public Intoxication in Tennessee

Many people hire a criminal defense attorney in Knoxville, TN to assist them with a public intoxication case for two important reasons. First, being convicted of public intoxication can be an embarrassing event to explain to future employers. As such, a criminal defense attorney can usually assist you in keeping this offense off of your criminal record. The other reason is that public intoxication is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of $50, or both. Most of the people who commit the crime of public intoxication are average law abiding citizens that simply had a little too much to drink, and therefore, would rather avoid 30 days in the county jail.

Do I Need Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney in Knoxville, TN?

Whether or not you hire a criminal defense attorney in Knoxville, TN to assist you with your case is a personal decision, but hiring an attorney that focuses their practice in criminal defense does provide you with many benefits the most important of which is keeping the charge off of your criminal record. A criminal defense attorney can usually negotiate a plea deal that either keeps the charge off of your record completely or allows you to have the public intoxication charge in a status that is not accessible by the general public through a background check. This is important, because you don’t want to have to explain a minor lapse in judgement every time you sit down for a job interview in the future.