What is Public Intoxication in New York?

public intoxication new york

While merely being drunk in public does not constitute a crime, New York has a law against public intoxication due to drugs. As you can deduce, the Empire State has complicated laws. For more information about this crime and its penalties, please continue reading, then contact an experienced Nassau County criminal defense attorney today.

Can police take you into protective custody for public intoxication in New York?

Only if a person consents may a police officer take an intoxicated individual, i.e. substantially impaired due to alcohol or drugs, to their home or a treatment facility. Since a police officer does not need an incapacitated person’s consent, he or she may take the intoxicated individual to a hospital or other facility for emergency care and treatment. To qualify as incapacitated, the person must have been unconscious or unable to make rational decisions about the person’s need for treatment.

Can New York police take an intoxicated individual into protective custody against their will?

On the other hand, a doctor must examine the person as soon as possible if the police officer takes the intoxicated individual into protective custody against their will. Only if the doctor determines that the person poses a danger to him- or herself or others can authorities keep the person in protective custody. When no longer dangerous or after forty-eight hours, whichever occurs first, authorities must release the person from protective custody.

How does New York treat public intoxication due to drugs?

In the Empire State, by appearing in public under the influence of narcotics or some other drug, other than alcohol, a person commits a crime if they:

  • Pose a danger to themselves, others or property, or
  • Annoy others

The state considers a place public if a substantial group of people has ready access to it.

Punishments for public intoxication include:

  • Fifteen days in jail, and
  • A fine of up to $250

How do you defend against a public intoxication charge?

  • You were not, in fact, intoxicated: You, the defendant, may argue that, at the time of the arrest, you were not intoxicated. Unless you have concrete evidence, such as a blood test, showing that you were not intoxicated, this defense can be hard to substantiate, because juries and judges tend to believe the testimony of the responding officer.
  • You were not in a public place: Your second option is to present evidence that law enforcement did not arrest you in a public place, or that you were not voluntarily in a public place at the time of the arrest. For instance, law enforcement may have ordered you out of your home and onto the sidewalk and then arrested you for public intoxication.
  • You presented no real or potential danger: You may also introduce evidence to illustrate that you were not causing a disturbance or actual or potential harm to yourself or others. For instance, your lawyer may call witnesses to testify that you were not bothering anyone or anything.

Speak with Jacob A. Rudman, Esq. if you have further questions.


If you are facing any criminal or traffic matter, contact us today to schedule your first consultation.

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