Public drinking laws vary throughout the world and most jurisdictions have an individual definition, approach, and punishment for public drunkenness, which is often set by local officials. There are some locations that tolerate public drinking as long as there are no disturbances. Other locations may treat intoxication in public places as a serious offense, and impose fines or other legal consequences. When visiting foreign locales, travelers should research public drinking laws to avoid fines and/or incarceration. Additional charges may be imposed depending on the age of the offender and local laws regarding legal drinking ages.
Most jurisdictions have regulations concerning alcohol consumption. Public drinking laws may restrict people under the age of 21 from having empty alcohol in his or her trash, which can be considered an open container and subject to a fine. Open containers in public is one of the most common laws devised to reduce public drunkenness by prohibiting the possession or consumption of alcoholic products in designated areas.
Public places such as sidewalks, public transportation, amusement parks, or local waterfronts are some areas that open container laws apply to. There are specific laws in some places that regard drinking on private or semi-private property, including on a front porch or stoop that is available to the general public, such as an as apartment building. This charge is usually punishable by fines and is considered a criminal act under certain public drinking laws.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or under the influence (DUI) is often dually classified as a public drinking and traffic violation. These offenses typically have severe consequences resulting in possible incarceration, license suspension or revocation, excessive legal fees, substance abuse rehabilitation programs, and vehicle impoundment. Due to the series of charges associated with a DWI or DUI, these offenses carry some of the highest fines and punishments under public drinking statutes.
Depending on the location, some laws are extremely specific and can include various types of animal abuse and other deviant behavior. For example, there are laws against getting a fish drunk or serving a moose any type of alcoholic beverage. Deviant behavior may include disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, or common nuisance charges.
Although these offenses are usually punished with a fine, some jurisdictions include jail time in their statutes. Most places consider public drinking a misdemeanor, and fines, community service, or probation are the most common punishments. There are also many places that do not view public drunkenness as a crime unless another serious offense is committed while intoxicated.