When does it become a crime to be drunk in public?

Under Michigan law, it is unlawful to be a “disorderly person”, which the state statute defines in part as a “person who is intoxicated in a public place and who is either endangering directly the safety of another person or of property or is acting in a manner that causes a public disturbance.” There are also city ordinances which make similar conduct unlawful. For instance, the ordinance in the City of Greenville where the office of Blanchard Law is located states: “No person shall be intoxicated in a public place and endanger directly the safety of another person or of property of act in a manner that causes a public disturbance.”

Courts have found that the term “public disturbance” does not provide a clear definition of what conduct might be illegal. Perhaps you can imagine a scenario where you witnessed behavior that you believed was disturbing, but that another person would not have been bothered by at all. The problem with having a law that makes it illegal for a person to create a “public disturbance” is that there are no standards to elaborate on exactly what conduct might be in violation of the law.

Courts have come up with a solution to this problem by using the portion of the law that makes it illegal to directly endanger the safety of another or of another’s property. The current law makes it unlawful to be intoxicated in a public place if you are directly endangering the safety of another person or another person’s property. It is not enough to just be drunk and causing a disturbance unless your behavior directly endangers the safety of a person or property.

It is important to note that the danger must be posed to another person, or to the property of another. Under the statute and ordinance discussed, it would not be unlawful to endanger your own safety. For instance, getting so intoxicated that you fall asleep on the sidewalk outside of the bar would not, without more facts, justify an arrest for public intoxication. Even though it may be considered unsafe to drink to such excess and to fall asleep outside of a bar, no one else’s safety is directly endangered. Nor does it appear from those facts that there is any property directly endangered. Having an experienced attorney to raise this defense could result in a dismissal of the case.

The other important thing to note is the requirement in the law that the unlawful conduct occur in a public place. A public place can generally be understood to be a place that is open to the members of the public, perhaps for business or entertainment. In the above example where you are found sleeping on the sidewalk outside of a bar, it is likely that this would be considered a public place. But what if you are in someone’s yard and near a sidewalk? You will need an attorney who will raise the potential defenses in order to get a favorable resolution.

If you find yourself charged with what is commonly known as “Public Intoxication” or “Drunk and Disorderly”, it is important to have an experienced lawyer in your corner. Public Intoxication is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. Being charged with a misdemeanor can have a negative impact on your personal and professional life. The lawyers at Blanchard Law are not only knowledgeable about the law but are willing to fight to protect your rights. Give us a call to discuss your case and explore how we can help you.

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