Contrary to popular belief, there is no law against “public intoxication” in Ohio. If it were illegal to simply be intoxicated in public, bars wouldn’t exist.
However, there is a law against “disorderly conduct,” and if you’re intoxicated while acting disorderly in public, it’s more likely that you could be arrested and charged for the crime.
So what exactly does Ohio law say about drunk and disorderly conduct? From Ohio defense attorney Max Hiltner, here’s everything you need to know about Ohio’s public intoxication laws.
Disorderly conduct laws in Ohio
Section 2917.11 of the Ohio Revised Code states that it is illegal to “recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another,” by doing any of the following things:
- Fighting or threatening someone
- Making unreasonable noise or using abusive language
- Insulting, taunting, or challenging someone to provoke a violent response
- Blocking traffic
- Causing harm to persons or property
Disorderly conduct is a minor misdemeanor, which means it is punishable by a fine of up to $150.
However, the charge becomes “aggravated disorderly conduct” if any of the following things happen:
- the defendant continues the conduct after being asked or warned to stop
- the conduct occurs at or near a school
- the conduct occurs in the presence of an emergency responder
Aggravated disorderly conduct is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which means it is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250.
“Drunk and disorderly”
According to that same law, the definition of disorderly conduct is a bit broader if the person is intoxicated. An intoxicated person can be arrested for disorderly conduct if they do any of the following things:
- engage in offensive conduct or cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to “persons of ordinary sensibilities”
- engage in conduct that risks physical harm to themselves, someone else, or someone else’s property
Arresting officers can be subjective in assessing what conduct meets these criteria. The same goes for judging just how intoxicated the person is.
According to the law, anyone who appears intoxicated “to an ordinary person” can be assumed to be intoxicated. But what does this mean?
There are a few behaviors that officers may look for when judging whether someone is intoxicated:
- Trouble balancing
- Slurred speech
- Blurry vision
- Stumbling or falling over
While being intoxicated might make it more likely for an officer to arrest you, it’s important to remember that you can be charged with disorderly conduct even if you’re stone-cold sober. The important part of the law is that it’s illegal to be a public nuisance or cause problems for the people around you.
As long as you’re not bothering other people or creating a dangerous situation, you’re probably okay getting a bit tipsy in public.
Of course, driving while intoxicated is an even more serious crime than disorderly conduct. So if you do get drunk in public, make sure not to get behind the wheel.
Contact a criminal defense attorney in Ohio
The most important thing to do if you’re charged with one of these crimes is to contact a defense attorney immediately. At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we have experience defending clients from all kinds of public nuisance laws, from disorderly conduct to DUIs. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and talk about your case.