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Is Public Intoxication Illegal in New York?


While many states throughout the U.S. uphold laws against public drunkenness, it is not a crime to be publicly intoxicated in New York; however, it is important to understand that this only applies to alcohol-related impairment. New York Penal Code § 240.40 states that it is a violation to appear in public while under the influence of narcotics or a drug other than alcohol "to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or annoy persons in his vicinity." If convicted of public intoxication due to drugs, one could be sentenced to 15 days in jail and asked to pay a fine of $250.

It should also be noted that a police officer can take a publicly intoxicated person into protective custody, but only if the person consents. If they are incapacitated or unable to make rational decisions about their need for medical treatment, however, a police officer can escort them to a hospital for emergency care without their consent. Once they have been taken into protective custody, they must undergo an examination as soon as possible. They would then be released when it has been decided that they no longer pose a threat, or after 48 hours have elapsed—whichever occurs first.

Although you cannot be charged with a crime for public drunkenness in New York, you can still be arrested for DWI or DWAI if you were in physical control of a vehicle. For example, you could be charged with drunk driving if you were pulled over on the side of the road with your keys in the ignition. Even though you may not have been driving the vehicle at the time that you were approached by a law enforcement officer, the prosecution could prove that you had the apparent means and intent to drive while intoxicated. For this reason, it is important to be wary of potentially risky situations.

If you have been arrested for public intoxication or any other crime related to drug and/or alcohol impairment, you should not hesitate to seek counsel from a New York City criminal defense attorney. The legal team at Law Offices of Daniel A. Hochheiser has been defending crimes of this nature for more than 60 years combined, so you can trust that our firm is well-equipped to provide you with the aggressive representation that you will need. All you have to do is contact our firm today at (800) 813-9069 to take advantage of a free telephone consultation; we are available 24/7 to take your call.

Prefer to reach us online? Submit a free case evaluation form directly from our website by clicking here.

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