Eastern Iowa Criminal Defense Attorneys

What College Students Need to Know About Public Intoxication Charges

During the college/university years, students might attend parties, sporting events, and other social functions where alcohol is present. Seeking to exercise their newfound freedom and independence and feeling that alcohol consumption is a ritual of college life, students might have a few drinks at these gatherings. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in one month in 2018, over 50% of full-time college students between 18 and 22 drank alcohol.

Because students are largely on their own – most of them away from their parents for the first time – there is inconsistent monitoring of alcohol consumption. Thus, many students might drink so much they get drunk. Unfortunately, upon leaving the party or event, the student might find themselves in a run-in with the law because they are intoxicated.

In this blog, we will discuss some of the things college students need to know about being drunk in public.

Public Intoxication Is a Crime

Being intoxicated in a public place is an offense and a problem that can affect the community.

When someone is drunk, their normal physical and mental faculties are impaired. Because of this, they might make decisions they would not have had they been sober. Therefore, if a person is drunk in public, they might engage in harmful or destructive behaviors. For instance, they may be involved in committing criminal offenses such as vandalism. Additionally, they might engage in conduct that puts themselves or others at risk.

Alcohol-related dangers include, but are not limited to:

  • Rape: According to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA), over 95,000 students between 18 and 24 were victims of sexual assault.
  • Assault: The NIAAA estimates that nearly 700,000 students between 18 and 24 were assaulted by a drunk student.
  • Death: The NIAA reported that over 1,500 students 18 to 24 died because of alcohol-related accidents.

It Is Illegal to Walk Around Drunk

In Iowa, a person is prohibited from walking around drunk. Iowa Code § 123.46 says that a person can not be intoxicated in a public place. Even if a student is trying to be responsible and not drive home after drinking and chooses to go on foot, they could still face criminal charges.

Note that the law also makes it illegal to consume alcohol while on public streets, highways, or public places (unless it has a liquor control license). Thus, drinking while walking is illegal even if the individual is not intoxicated.

Defining a "Public Place"

Under Iowa Code § 123.3, a public place is "any place, building, or conveyance to which the public has or is permitted access."

The Penalties for Public Intoxication

In Iowa, public intoxication is a simple misdemeanor. A conviction can lead to $105 to $855 in fines and/or incarceration for up to 30 days.

Many college students are on tight budgets, and a fine of any amount can be financially overwhelming. It also takes away needed funds for books, materials, and other school-related expenses. Additionally, if the student is sent to jail upon a conviction, that could mean that they must miss classes, which can affect their academic performance.

A conviction will also result in a mark on the student's criminal record. Having a criminal history can affect various educational and professional opportunities. Fortunately, two years after the conviction, the student can petition to have the public intoxication offense expunged, provided that they were not convicted for any other crimes during that period.

Students Need a Lawyer for a Public Intoxication Charge

Public intoxication charges are serious and should not be handled without an experienced attorney. A lawyer can provide sound advice and guidance and seek to minimize the penalties the student may face.

At Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger, we have over 50 years of combined experience and offer a free initial consultation. Discuss your Iowa City public intoxication charge by calling us at (319) 499-5524 or contacting us online today.