Disorderly Intoxication Attorney in Tampa, FL
Disorderly intoxication is a common criminal charge in Florida used by police and prosecutors to punish alcohol-fueled behavior they feel creates a public disturbance. The line between “disturbance” and free speech is often hazy, leading to the potential for improper arrests. It is important if you have been charged with this crime that you not try to deal with it by yourself. Conviction can mean probation, fines and even jail time. It is essential to have qualified legal representation on your side.
If you or a loved one are facing disorderly intoxication charges in the Tampa, FL, area, call Armando Edmiston, an experienced Tampa disorderly intoxication criminal defense lawyer, today.
Disorderly Intoxication Defined in Tampa, FL
Florida’s disorderly intoxication statute covers two situations. First, it is a crime to be intoxicated and endanger the safety of other people or their property. Second, it is a crime to be intoxicated or drink alcohol in public and cause a public disturbance. A violation of either prong of this law is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Probation is more likely than jail in most cases, especially for first-time offenders. Habitual offenders — those convicted of disorderly intoxication three times within a year — can be committed to mandatory substance abuse treatment for 60 days. Arrests for disorderly intoxication frequently occur around sporting events, concerts and other large-scale gatherings where alcohol is consumed. By law, police are given a choice in dealing with intoxicated people they believe are causing disturbances: They can arrest them, they can take or send them home, or they can bring them to a hospital or other health care facility.
Disorderly Intoxication: Related Crimes in Tampa, FL
There are several similar public-order crimes on the books in Florida. The state’s disorderly conduct law punishes fights, brawls and other breaches of the peace, as well as acts that corrupt the public morals, outrage the sense of public decency or affect the peace and quiet of bystanders. This is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by as many as 60 days. Loitering or prowling in a way that is unusual for law-abiding citizens and warrants justifiable alarm among people in the vicinity is also a second-degree misdemeanor with a 60-day maximum. Possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21 is another public-order offense, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by as many as 60 days. Charges for criminal mischief, also known as vandalism, can range from a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by at most 60 days, to a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Disorderly Intoxication: Defenses in Tampa, FL
What one person considers a “public disturbance,” another considers free speech. If an intoxicated defendant is arrested for disorderly intoxication solely because she made statements police considered unruly (as opposed to engaging in unruly actions), she may have a strong defense under the First Amendment, which protects all but a very limited range of speech — regardless of the speaker’s state of inebriation. It is also possible to argue the defendant’s behavior did not rise to the level of a “public disturbance,” that it was merely a minor nuisance. If the intoxicated behavior occurred at the defendant’s home or in a private place to which she was invited, that is also a defense as long as she did not endanger other people or their property.