Definition of Disorderly Intoxication

In Florida, the definition of disorderly intoxication is contained Section 856.011 of the Florida Statutes. The law provides that: “No person in the State [of Florida] shall be intoxicated and endanger the safety of another person or property, and no person in the State shall be intoxicated or drink any alcoholic beverage in a public place or in any public conveyance and cause a public disturbance.”

Thus, under the statute, disorderly intoxication occurs in one of two scenarios:

  • Where an accused is intoxicated and he or she endangers the safety of persons or property; or
  • Where an accused is intoxicated or drinks in a public place and causes a public disturbance.

For purposes of Florida’s disorderly intoxication statute, “intoxication” means more than merely being under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. Intoxication in Florida means that the accused was so affected by the alcoholic beverage as to have lost or been deprived of the normal control of either his/her body or his/her mental faculties, or both. Intoxication is synonymous with “drunk.”

Where the defendant admits to a police officer or to bystanders that he or she drank an alcoholic beverage, this is not, by itself, sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was under the influence to the extent that he or she was “intoxicated.” However, the admission may be taken into account with other evidence that may be presented in the case.

As discussed above, Disorderly Intoxication in Florida also requires that the accused’s conduct take place within a “public place.” Florida law defines a “public place” as any location where the general public has a right to be. Thus, where the conduct of the accused occurs on his or her front porch or other private property, a conviction will not stand. See Royster v. State, 643 So. 2d 61 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994).

Moreover, there can be no conviction for Disorderly Intoxication unless the prosecution succeeds in proving that the accused’s conduct in some way posed a danger to public safety. In Jernigan v. State, 566 So. 2d 39 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990), a police dispatcher, went to the police station while intoxicated and distraught over a relationship with a female dispatcher. He was persuaded to leave, and then came back to the station, where he was arrested and charged with disorderly intoxication. At trial, the accused brought a motion for judgment of acquittal on grounds that the State failed to present evidence of an endangerment to public safety. The trial court denied the motion. On these facts, the First District Court of Appeal of Florida reversed, holding that, in prosecutions for disorderly intoxication, the State must prove not only that a person is intoxicated but that the public safety is endangered. The Court made no distinction between charges involving the consumption of beverages and charges where the defendant was merely intoxicated.

Penalties for Disorderly Intoxication

Under Florida law, disorderly intoxication is classified as a second degree misdemeanor, and carries penalties of up to sixty days in jail and a $500 fine. If convicted, the accused will furthermore acquire a permanent criminal record, which can never be sealed or expunged.

Defenses to Disorderly Intoxication

There are innumerable defenses available to contest a charge of disorderly intoxication in Florida, and no person should attempt to resolve their case without first consulting with an attorney. Common defenses include a lack of endangerment to public safety, factual disputes as to the alleged disturbance, and the inability of the prosecution to prove intoxication.

Another potential defense concerns freedom of speech under the First Amendment. Generally speaking, if the intoxication that forms the basis of the charge is speech (verbal, written, or other expressive conduct), and if such conduct falls within a category of protected speech, then the First Amendment will preclude a conviction for disorderly intoxication. However, when protected speech is accompanied by conduct which is not constitutionally protected and which is properly defined as criminal, then a conviction for disorderly intoxication will stand, even if aspects of the incident involve freedom of speech. [For additional information about this topic, view our sample Motion to Dismiss Disorderly Intoxication Charge].

If you have been arrested or accused of disorderly intoxication in Jacksonville or the surrounding counties of Northeast Florida, you should consult with an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options. The attorneys at Hussein & Webber, PL have extensive experience in handling these types of cases and will fight on your behalf to challenge the State’s allegations and avoid a conviction. Call our Jacksonville Criminal Attorneys today for a free consultation.