Public Intoxication / Disorderly Conduct

Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorneys Dedicated to Serving Indianapolis Citizens

The state laws of Indiana make it illegal for a person to be present in a public place while in a state of intoxication that endangers his or her own life, endangers another individual’s life, or breaches the peace. For more than 25 years, our criminal defense attorneys have represented individuals near Indianapolis charged with nearly every type of crime. Our extensive trial experience has given us first-hand knowledge of how the justice system works. We can use those insights to vigorously defend clients from Marion County and throughout the state of Indiana. Our criminal defense lawyers firmly believe an individual’s rights should be vigorously protected.

Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct Laws in Indiana

The term “intoxicated” has a specific definition under the state’s laws, and it is interpreted to mean under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or another drug, which causes an impaired condition and the loss of normal control of faculties. In cases of public intoxication, law enforcement officials are given the authority to either take a person into custody in the city or county jail, or to issue a citation and take the person home or to a safe place.

Disorderly conduct is a charge that often accompanies a citation for public intoxication. While the two offenses have different components, law enforcement frequently bases both charges on the same circumstances. To be found guilty of disorderly conduct in Indiana, there must be evidence that an individual recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally engaged in one of the following acts:

  • Fighting or “tumultuous conduct”;
  • Making unreasonable noise, and ceasing to do so after being asked to stop; or
  • Disrupting a lawful assembly of persons.

Public intoxication is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by up to 180 days of jail time and a potential fine of up to $1,000. Disorderly conduct is also generally considered a misdemeanor, and it can result in similar penalties. However, in certain situations, disorderly conduct may be considered a felony. Those circumstances often involve locations with heightened security, such as an airport, or of a solemn nature, such as a burial site or a funeral procession.

Not all instances of intoxication or rowdy conduct constitute a crime. There are certain factors the prosecution must prove in order to obtain a conviction. In some cases, a person may have been charged with public intoxication or disorderly conduct for behavior that did not in fact occur in a public place. As a general rule, a public place can mean one devoted to public use, although it can include a place that is merely accessible to the public. For example, Indiana courts have held that a private vehicle, when stopped by a police officer on a public road, may be considered “public” with respect to intoxicated persons inside. And a person may even be charged with disorderly conduct on his or her own property.

Another defense that may be available for a person charged with disorderly conduct is the right to free expression, which is protected under both the Constitution of Indiana and the United States Constitution. If actions by law enforcement restricted a person’s right to expression, the disorderly conduct laws will not trump those constitutional protections.