Dos and Don’ts if You’re Arrested for Being Drunk in Public in Harrisonburg

Dos and Don’ts if You’re Arrested for Being Drunk in Public in Harrisonburg

When you have easy access to a downtown area described by Harrisonburg Tourism as a lively center for food, drink, history, and culture, you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy the area. Still, an everyday celebration can take a downturn if you’re arrested for public intoxication. In Virginia, this offense is called being drunk in public, and you could be surprised by the severity of the penalties for a seemingly minor crime. Contact a Harrisonburg criminal defense attorney right away if you’ve been arrested, but review a few Do’s and Don’ts about drunk in public laws. 

DO Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent: The US and Virginia Constitutions both protect you from self-incrimination, which means police cannot force you to answer questions or make statements. If officers ask questions, you should stay quiet and request to speak to your lawyer.

DON’T Resist Arrest: Never, ever try to fight police when they’re apprehending you – either through verbal statements or physical force. Resisting arrest is a much more serious crime as compared to being drunk in public, and you shouldn’t risk additional charges. Save the battle for the courtroom. 

DO Understand the Prosecutor’s Burden: Since public intoxication is a crime, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty. There are two essential elements in these cases, each of which is subject to this standard. They include:

  1. Proof that you’re intoxicated, which is based upon the arresting officer’s observation. Proof of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) isn’t necessary for drunk in public charges.
  2. A showing that you were in public.

DON’T Skip Out on Your Court Hearing: After you’re arrested, you’ll get a court date to address the charges against you. Make sure to attend this hearing and arrive early. You should also dress appropriately for this official proceeding, by wearing clothing similar to what you’d don for a job interview. 

DO Be Prepared for Applicable Penalties: Though you may believe you have a defense or you’ve worked out a plea bargain, you know the punishment you could face for a conviction for public drunkenness. This offense is a Class 4 Misdemeanor, so a judge will issue an order in accordance with Virginia’s punishment statute. You could receive a fine up to $250; plus, you’ll have a conviction on your criminal record.

DON’T Attempt to Represent Yourself: Because of the implications for your future, it’s important to retain an attorney to defend your interests in court. You may think public intoxication is a minor offense, but the conviction will follow you. Even after you pay the fine, you could have problems with employment, loans, and in other areas. 

Set Up a Consultation with a Harrisonburg Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested for being drunk in public, please contact Cravens & Noll PC for assistance in fighting the charges. We represent clients throughout Central and Western Virginia from our office in Harrisonburg, VA so we’re well-versed in the laws that apply to your case. You can call our firm at 540.246.0684 or visit our website to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney.


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