What are the Different Types of Public Drinking Laws?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The average American has around 60 "bad days" a year; lack of sleep is the biggest contributing factor.  more...

October 20 ,  1973 :  The "Saturday Night Massacre"  more...

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.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 3

@croydon - I don't know, I think that generally the way laws work at the moment aren't too bad. It's usually young people who are dumb enough to be lounging around in public, drinking, and you don't want the penalties for them be too bad before they learn sense, or they could end up in jail for nothing more than having a beer in a place they shouldn't.

That's the current consequences for kids who make the mistake of having a joint with some friends (or at least, the mistake of getting caught for it) and it can ruin their whole lives.

I agree that there is a problem in some places but I don't think penalties are the answer. I think providing alternative venues and activities is a better idea. Often the kids are drinking because they really don't have anything better to do.

Post 2

@Iluviaporos - I definitely agree with you. I would also make penalties for drinking in public more severe.

I absolutely think that people should be able to drink as much as they like at home or in a licensed facility.

But all too often I've seen kids on the street getting drunk and getting into fights. It looks bad, it sounds scary and it can often end up in violence.

I think it's a shame that the drinking culture in many countries has got to this point. In many places alcohol is taken for granted as something you have in moderation, rather than as some kind of competitive sport.

Post 1

To be honest, I think that DUI punishments need to be a lot harsher than they usually are. I saw in the paper the other day that there is someone walking around (and even driving around) who has been caught drunk driving over 30 times.

That's just not good enough. Once is too many, but I could tolerate a fine and a warning and a suspended license for that. Twice, maybe. Three times and they should be in jail. Do not pass Go.

As it is, often these drivers only get jail time if they hit someone. By then it's too late.

And in fact they probably feel free to claim they are being persecuted even with the penalties they

are getting, because after all, they've never hurt anyone.

But it only takes once. I had three people from my year at high school, gone in a few minutes because one of them decided he was all right to drive. It could have been all right 30 times, but the 31st is a tragedy.

I think they should just make sure there's never going to be a 31st, or even a second time.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?