Public Intoxication Isn’t a Crime in New Jersey, But it Can Lead to Other Criminal Charges

In New Jersey, it is not a crime to be drunk in public. Many people find this surprising, but it is true. In fact, not only is public intoxication not a crime under New Jersey law, but the legislature has actually enacted a law that prohibits local municipalities (cities and towns) from criminalizing public intoxication as well.

So, why have you been taken into custody or issued a ticket?

1. Disorderly Conduct

While you cannot be arrested for being drunk, you can be arrested for being disorderly as a result of being drunk. Under Section 2C:33-2(a) of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice:

“A person is guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense, if with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof he (1) Engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior; or (2) Creates a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.”

Additionally, under Section 2C:33-2(b):

“A person is guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense if, in a public place, and with purpose to offend the sensibilities of a hearer or in reckless disregard of the probability of so doing, he addresses unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive language, given the circumstances of the person present and the setting of the utterance, to any person present.”

A “petty disorderly persons offense” is referred to as a misdemeanor in other states, and it carries the potential for up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

2. Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

You can also be charged with a crime if you get behind the wheel of your car after being drunk in public. If a police officer saw you get in your car and stopped you before you left your parking space, it is possible that you could be charged with DUI even if you never shifted into first gear. All DUI offenses carry the potential for fines, jail time and a variety of other penalties in New Jersey; and if you were arrested and charged with DUI after being drunk in public (or allegedly drunk in public), you need to speak with a defense lawyer right away.

3. Underage Drinking

If you are under 21, it is illegal for you to consume alcohol in public in New Jersey. Like most states, New Jersey has a “zero tolerance” law for underage drinking, which means that you can be charged with a disorderly persons offense regardless of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Underage drinking carries a mandatory fine of $500 to $1,000 and up to six months in jail, and you will be forced to surrender your driver’s license immediately.

Contact Hackensack, NJ Defense Attorney Scott Gorman

If you have been charged with an alcohol-related offense in New Jersey, defense attorney Scott Gorman can protect you. To discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation, call The Gorman Law Firm at 201-489-9199 or request an appointment online now.

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