Is it Illegal to Be Intoxicated Publicly in Wisconsin?

Categories: criminal defense

public intoxication in Wisconsin

Experienced Legal Defense for Public Intoxication Charges in Wausau, WI

In Wisconsin, it is not a crime to be intoxicated in public. Yet, you can still be arrested for public intoxication; and, if you are drunk in public, you can still face criminal charges.

Wisconsin’s Public Intoxication Law

Under Wisconsin’s public intoxication law, being drunk in public is considered a social issue, not a criminal one. The law states:

“It is the policy of this state that alcoholics and intoxicated persons may not be subjected to criminal prosecution because of their consumption of alcohol beverages but rather should be afforded a continuum of treatment in order that they may lead normal lives as productive members of society.”

As a result, if you are drunk in public, the police can arrest you, but they cannot charge you with the crime of public intoxication (because, in Wisconsin, no such crime exists). Instead, when you are arrested for public intoxication, the police will place you in protective custody until you can be transferred to an appropriate facility for medical treatment or rehabilitation. While treatment and rehabilitation are voluntary in most cases, the State also has the authority to commit you to emergency treatment if you (i) have threatened harm to yourself or others, or (ii) are too incapacitated to voluntarily enter treatment.

Local Public Intoxication Ordinances

In addition to Wisconsin’s public intoxication law, some local municipalities have enacted ordinances pertaining to public drunkenness. If you are arrested for being drunk in public in these locales, you can face sanctions including mandatory alcohol education, fines, court costs, and the costs of transportation to an approved treatment facility.

Facing Criminal Charges: Disorderly Conduct

If you are arrested for public intoxication in Wisconsin, there is a chance that you may face criminal charges relating to your activity or conduct, though not your drunkenness itself. For example, if you are being loud, fighting, or engaging in other inappropriate or dangerous acts while you are drunk in public, the police may charge you with disorderly conduct.

Under Wisconsin’s disorderly conduct law, engaging “in violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud or otherwise disorderly conduct under circumstances in which the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance” is a Class B misdemeanor offense. A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Defending Against Charges of Public Intoxication

Of course, while public intoxication may not be a criminal offense in Wisconsin, this does not mean that being arrested and taken into protective custody (and facing the possibility of mandatory emergency commitment) for being drunk in public is devoid of consequences. To protect yourself, you may be able to assert defenses such as:

  • You were not intoxicated at the time of the arrest
  • You were not in public (or you were ordered out of a private place by the police)
  • The police violated your Constitutional rights prior to or during your arrest

Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.

Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.

Contact the Defense Lawyers at Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C.

If you have been arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, or any other alcohol-related offense, you can contact the Wausau, WI defense lawyers at Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C. to learn more about your legal rights. For an initial consultation, call (715) 842-2291 or send us a message online today.