Atlanta Public Drunkenness and Public Intoxication

We frequently represent people charged with public drunkenness or public intoxication in Atlanta Municipal Court.  Charges of puclic drunkenness or public intoxication are significant because they are obviously alcohol-related charges and they may appear upon your criminal history.  This type of charge may have an impact upon your employment.  Below, we discuss some of the issues that should be considered in defending a public drunkenness or public intoxication case in Atlanta.  We have also attempted to identify some of the common questions that clients have regarding this offense.

O.C.G.A. § 16-11-41. Public drunkenness

(a) A person who shall be and appear in an intoxicated condition in any public place or within the curtilage of any private residence not his own other than by invitation of the owner or lawful occupant, which condition is made manifest by boisterousness, by indecent condition or act, or by vulgar, profane, loud, or unbecoming language, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) This Code section shall not be construed to affect the powers delegated to counties or to municipal corporations to pass laws to punish drunkenness or disorderly conduct within their respective limits.

What is the maximum punishment for public intoxication or public drunkenness in Atlanta?

The maximum punishment for violation of this state law provision is 12 months in jail and a fine of $1,000.00.  Yes, this is the maximum punishment for every misdemeanor offense in Georgia.

What is a public place for the purposes of a public drunkenness charge?

Restaurant which issued implied invitation to members of public was “public place” within meaning of law making it a crime to be intoxicated while in public place, if condition is manifested in specific ways. Code, § 58-608. Talley v. State, 1973, 129 Ga.App. 479, 199 S.E.2d 908.

Yard of county jail is not per se a “place of public gathering or assembly,” for purposes of statute prohibiting manifested intoxication at place of public gathering or assembly, and whether yard of certain jail is place of public gathering or assembly in given instance is for jury in prosecution under such statute. Code, §§ 58-608, 91-705. Favors v. State, 1961, 104 Ga.App. 854, 123 S.E.2d 207.

What conduct will support a lawful arrest for public drunkenness?

In order to effectuate valid arrest for public drunkenness, defendant’s drunken condition must have been made manifest by boisterousness or by indecent condition or act or by vulgar, profane, loud or unbecoming language. Code, § 26-2607. Young v. State, 1980, 155 Ga.App. 598, 271 S.E.2d 731.

Where record clearly showed that defendant did not exhibit behavior which would justify arrest for public drunkenness and arresting officers testified that defendant did not speak until officers and defendant got to police station following arrest, arrest was not legally justified, and it was therefore error not to suppress fruits of the unlawful arrest. Code, § 26-2607. Young v. State, 1980, 155 Ga.App. 598, 271 S.E.2d 731.

Under circumstances wherein defendant was found either asleep or passed out in his automobile parked on premises of friends who testified that they had invited him to spend the night, but had themselves gone to sleep before he arrived, arrest for public drunkenness was illegal. Code, § 26-2607. Moore v. State, 1980, 155 Ga.App. 299, 270 S.E.2d 713.

Can you be removed to a public place and charged with public drunkenness?

Where a person is intoxicated in a place which is not one designated by statute, he cannot be forcibly removed from that place to a public place within the purview of the statute and then charged with committing the offense in the latter place. Code, § 58-608. Finch v. State, 1960, 101 Ga.App. 73, 112 S.E.2d 824.

What are the essential elements of a public drunkenness (public intoxication) charging document?

Where indictment charges that alleged drunkenness and intoxication are caused by excessive use of intoxicating wines, beers, liquors, and opiates, failure to prove that drunkenness was caused by any intoxicant enumerated is fatal. Code 1933, § 58-608. Plemons v. State, 1939, 60 Ga.App. 639, 4 S.E.2d 681.

Accusation, charging defendant with manifested intoxication in yard of county jail, was insufficient for failure to allege character of place where offense was allegedly committed. Code, §§ 58-608, 91-705. Favors v. State, 1961, 104 Ga.App. 854, 123 S.E.2d 207.

Are there certain techinal defenses that can be raised in the defense of a public drunkenness (public intoxication) charge?

In addition to those discussed above, consider that:

State failed to meet its burden of proving that defendant’s public intoxication violated local ordinance, where state failed to place into evidence a copy of ordinance involved. Poole v. State, 1997, 229 Ga.App. 406, 494 S.E.2d 251.


Ben Sessions is an Atlanta DUI lawyer and partner in the firm of McIlhinney & Sessions. His practice is focused on the defense of clients charged with DUI and other drug and alcohol-related offenses. Ben has co-authored articles and participated in seminars before the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD), the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, and other organizations. He is certified as both a Practitioner and Instructor of the National Highway Safety Traffic Safety’s Standardized Field Sobriety Testing procedures. He has received extensive training in forensic breath, blood, and urine testing. He is a member of the National College for DUI Defense, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Ben Sessions graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law. In 2010 and 2011, he was named a “Rising Star” in the area of DUI defense by the Super Lawyers Magazine. In 2010, he was recognized for the “Greatest Trial Victory of the Year” by the Georgia Defense of Drinking Drivers (DODD) Group. In 2011, Ben was recognized as the “DUI Lawyer of the Year” by DODD.  Ben was selected by the Atlanta Municipal Court to participate in the 2011 DUI Court Advisory Committee.  Ben has also been selected as a speaker for the Atlanta Municipal Court “C=C” program.

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