Randall L Vonderheide PC - Logo

Attorney at Law

Phone: (765) 423-2557

Fax: (765) 423-4544

300 Main Street, Suite #500
Lafayette, IN 47901

What penalties come with a Public Intoxication charge?

Public Intoxication and Minor Consumption crimes in Indiana can carry serious penalties. Excise police conduct alcohol enforcement campaigns, including on college campuses and surrounding areas on home football game weekends and spring events such as Purdue Grand Prix weekend. The excise police also arrest underage drivers who transport their 21 year old buddies to a liquor store for the crime of a minor transporting alcohol. In addition to criminal penalties, alcohol related offenses for college students result in potentially serious university disciplinary proceedings.

Public Intoxication

Public Intoxication in Indiana carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. In some counties, a public intoxication charge can be settled with a diversion agreement resulting in no conviction being entered if the terms of the agreement are successfully completed. In other counties, the jail time is required even for first offenses.

A recent change to the public intoxication statute created new possible defenses to the crime by adding additional elements of endangerment or disturbing the peace that the State must prove to obtain a conviction. The public intoxication statute currently reads:

It is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to be in a public place or a place of public resort in a state of intoxication caused by the person’s use of alcohol or a controlled substance if the person:

    (1) endangers the person’s life;
    (2) endangers the life of another person;
    (3) breaches the peace or is in imminent danger of breaching the peace; or
    (4) harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.

Indiana does not require a breath test be given to obtain a public intoxication conviction. The evidence to support a conviction in a public intoxication trial is normally just the observations and opinion of the arresting officer. This evidence typically includes claims that the defendant smelled of alcohol, had red watery eyes, and had unsteady balance. An experienced criminal defense attorney can effectively challenge this evidence for example by pointing out that one beer can cause the smell of alcohol; red watery eyes can be caused by smoke or allergies; and unsteady balance can be challenged with medical evidence or defense witnesses.

If you are charged with public intoxication, you should immediately hire an experience criminal defense attorney. Depending on the county and your prior criminal history, you could be facing harsh criminal consequences including serving time in a county jail. However, many public intoxication can be successfully defended with the right attorney.

Minor Consumption

Alcohol offenses for a minor in Indiana are defined as:

It is a Class C misdemeanor for a minor to knowingly:
    (1) possess an alcoholic beverage;
    (2) consume an alcoholic beverage; or
    (3) transport an alcoholic beverage on a public highway when not accompanied by at least one (1) of the minor’s parents or guardians.

A Class C misdemeanor carries a jail sentence up to 60 days and a fine up to $500.00.

Further, if a minor is found to have consumed or transported alcohol while operating a vehicle, the court may order the minor’s driving privileges suspended for up to one (1) year. However, if the minor is less than eighteen (18) years of age, the court shall order the minor’s driving privileges suspended for at least sixty (60) days. If a minor is charged with an alcohol offense involving a vehicle, an experience criminal defense attorney should be hired immediately to try to avoid a lengthy license suspension.

Minors charged with underage drinking with a prior criminal history face harsher plea offers from the State. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help defend the case or negotiate a reduced penalty such a diversion agreement to avoid a conviction. Do not get stuck on the side of the courtroom with the wrong lawyer. Hire Steven Knecht for your criminal case today.

Filed to Ask a Lawyer, Operating While Intoxicated

Back to Blog