How do people get home from bars legally if public intoxication is illegal

I thought anytime you were outside your own home or some other private residence you were in the public and being drunk in public was a crime. So how do people get home legally? Do cops just ignore people who walk home drunk or are driven home drunk or is it legal to walk home or be driven home in these situations?

These laws are strange. Australia here, but it’s similar. You can’t be intoxicated in a bar. If you are, you’ll be asked to leave. So you need to teleport home. I think “drunk and disorderly” laws, as they are called here, focus on the “disorderly” part, and as long as you can walk a more or less straight-ish line home or to the railway station, the cops’ll merely be thankful that you’re not behind the wheel of a car, and will leave you alone.

Start pissing on fire hydrants and puking on parked cars on the way though, and you might find the boys in blue will suddenly take an interest in you.

I think it’s a common sense thing.

Yeah don’t bother anyone and no one will bother. A lot of laws depend on common sense - you need to apply reason and not logic.

In Texas and other places I’ve been in the U.S., the law often seems to be applied somewhat capriciously to (1) aforementioned people who are being disruptive or obnoxious, (2) passengers riding with drivers arrested for DWI, and (3) random pedestrians during events like Mardi Gras.

Also in Texas, according to the state’s alcoholic beverage commission, bartenders aren’t supposed to allow patrons to get drunk. It is all rather hypocritical, if you ask me.

In Texas, a person is only guilty of public intoxication (the crime, that is) if he appears in a public place “intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.” I think that the Model Penal Code contains a similar provision, and probably other states as well. So despite the name of the crime, it’s not against the law to just be intoxicated in a public place – you need to be posing a danger to yourself or someone else.

So to answer your question, you get home legally by not running in the street, stumbling around screaming like a maniac, throwing beer bottles, or the like.

These are the Indiana laws

IC 7.1-5-1-3
Public intoxication prohibited
Sec. 3. It is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to be in a public place or a place of public resort in a state of intoxication caused by the person’s use of alcohol or a controlled substance (as defined in IC 35-48-1-9).
IC 7.1-5-1-6
Intoxication upon common carrier prohibited
Sec. 6. It is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to be, or to become, intoxicated as a result of the person’s use of alcohol or a controlled substance (as defined in IC 35-48-1-9) in or upon a vehicle commonly used for the public transportation of passengers, or in or upon a common carrier, or in or about a depot, station, airport, ticket office, waiting room or platform.
So we are more hardass than Texas. Doesn’t suprise me much. However here at campus they have something called the ‘drunk bus’ which takes drunk college students home from the bar district back to the dorms on the weekend nights. Seeing how 7.1-5-1-6 said its a misdemeanor to ride a bus drunk (dumb law) I assume the police just don’t enforce it unless someone is disorderly.

Well, I stand corrected, at least as far as Indiana goes. I suppose that this is one of those areas where the law just depends upon police officers to exercise discretion in enforcing the law.

You would normally expect that common sense would prevail in law enforcement. But these laws do open the door to policemen capriciously harrassing citizens if they don’t like their looks. I knew a guy who had a beard and very long hair, and he was also very tall so he stood out in a crowd. He had spent some time as a laborer in Texas, and he said several times when he’d gone out and had one beer, the cops would arrest him for “public intoxication.” So he left Texas and went home to St. Louis pretty soon. (Not that that was much of an improvement; when I lived in St. Louis I was constantly harrassed by the cops just because I had long hair. But I didn’t drink, so the public intoxication charge didn’t come up.)

In my town of Herndon, Virginia last year there was a flap over capricious enforcement of the public intoxication law. Undercover cops went into Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern and sat watching the patrons. The criterion they used for drunkenness was if a person’s cigarette ash grew too long before they flicked it. I am not making this up. A person sitting quietly and not bothering anyone in any way would be arrested for letting their cigarette ash lengthen beyond an arbitrary maximum length. I guess the cops felt they didn’t have enough crime on their hands so they went looking for any excuse to arrest someone.

This is what I mean by capricious enforcement. A judge exercising common sense might throw out the case… but there’s no prior restraint to prevent the police from harrassing citizens arbitrarily.

I used to work as an editor in a legal publishing company that published codified municipal ordinances. Laws that are unenforceable or have no clear guidelines for enforcement are called “bad law” in the business.

When I was in Oregon the local small town cops had a way of just sloooooowly following you down the street in their cars. As long as you didn’t stop, pee, vomit, fall over, or yell at the cops, they would permit you to stagger on to your destination unmolested. Seemed fair to me.

No, I’d guess that Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern forgot to make their regular “contribution” to the Police Officers Benefit Fund!


  1. Drink at home;
  2. Take a taxi home from a private club.

A few years back a casual friend and I were paired up over a pool table at a bar and enjoying the drinks we were winning. At the end of the night we played one last game between us for bragging rights, closing time was called but the bar was kind enough to let us finish our game once they collected all beer bottles ect. When we left about ten minutes later, I did notice a cruiser parked down the way a bit, but neither of us were driving nor were we sloppy drunk so I didn’t think more about it, until about a few hundred yards down the road when a cruiser from the other direction pulled along side us and the first cruiser we saw pulled into a driveway and blocked our path. The cops rushed out to detain us and my first thought was we must look like someone they’re looking for. They fired a few general questions at us and it quickly began to look less like a possible mistaken ID but more like some general roust.

They had us put our hands against a wall and spread our feet, I recall the cop kicking my instep to spread my feet further and pushing the small of my back to get me closer to the wall. They pat us down and I asked why, they didn’t reply but kept asking the same questions we already answered, name, where are you going, where do you live. They let us off the wall to produce ID but were still really being pricks and that’s when I suspected what they were really up to. What’s the difference between walking out of a bar after closing and being drunk and disorderly? The answer, give them a reason. I answered all their questions for the umpteenth time and hid my frustration but my friend let them provoke him into calling them assholes, which is exactly what they were. But that moment of honesty cost my friend a night in the clink and $225. Total BS but after a recent tax levy failed we knew they had to find some money somewhere.

Some cops are assholes and some aren’t.

Whether there are laws on the books or not cops can get away with certain level of harassment.

In general though in most districts cops have more important things to do. If they see you drunk they’ll probably not do anything unless you’re just obviously too drunk to be out and about.

!. Have a designated driver.
2. Call a cab.
3. Walk, if you can.
4. Don’t let this happen to you:
Last week, about Thursday in Marrietta GA , two intoxicated persons (drunks) left a bar to go home. The second drunk got in the rear passenger side and hung out the window. The driver sideswiped a guywire, decapitated the passenger, continued home, went in the house and to bed. The next morning a neighbor saw the headless corpse in the car and called the police. The driver is being charged with manslaughter.
A radio talk show host, from Atlanta, reported that as the police went in search of the missing head, the driver’s partner said: "What is that in road “A Head” (ahead). True story but unable to find a cite to link to. It was reported on Channel 10 TV as well as in the newspaper but nothing online that I could find.

Many jurisdictions have repealed the “public intoxication” statutes, though “drunk and disorderly” may remain on the books.

Certainly there are circumstances where police are abusing their authority. But I believe that generally, even if PI is an offense in their jurisdiction, they will use it only when circumstances call for an arrest, not the person who is drunk but staggering home without disturbing anyone else.

Anecdotal story you may enjoy:

Old Judge Willis [names changed here; all these men are people I knew in my old home town] was an alcoholic – able to keep sober during the day but regularly getting drunk at the Glacial Falls Club every evening. Judge Sanderson was his “relief judge” – judge of the family court on a regular basis, and handling cases on the main court when Willis needed time off.

Old Carl was perhaps the most famous town drunk – he had a jail record four pages long of arrests for PI.

One day Carl came out of the bar and began his walk – or rather, stagger – home. Passing by the Glacial Falls Club, he saw Judge Willis stagger out, escorted by a deferential policeman, and be placed in a cab to be taken home. The cop then followed Carl up the street and arrested him.

The next morning, proving that he could still think clearly, Carl appeared before Judge Sanderson, who was covering court that day – Judge Willis had a severe headache and queasy stomach for some reason. Having read him his charge (PI as usual) Judge Sanderson asked Carl how he pleaded. “Not guilty, Your Honor,” Carl responded. “Not guilty?” the judge asked. “Yessir,” Carl responded. “I know I have a drinking problem, but I can get on the stand there and state under oath to you, and have the officer back me up on this, that last night I was sober as a judge.” Judge Sanderson looked at the cop. Trying to keep a straight face, the cop nodded.

Case dismissed.

I was told this story by Judge Sanderson himself, when we had dinner with him and his wife, and he found out that we knew Carl through the storefront ministry we were volunteering at.

There are also plenty of bars in America that are not within walking distance of anyone, and are too isolated to be part of a bus route. Their parking lots suggest the method of travel to and from these bars is by car. One assumes that its a given a good percentage of patrons will be driving home drunk.

So whats the deal with those?

You weren’t looking hard enough:

It’s also interestesting to know that you don’t have to be intoxicated to be arrested for public intoxication.

I ran with a strange, tee-totalling crowd in college, and a few of my aquaintances were arrested for public intoxication when they got caught poking around at a construction site (in a street, so they weren’t trespassing on private property) late at night. They hadn’t been drinking, but they didn’t have to take a breathalizer or blood test, or anything. None of them were actually charged with public intoxication, though, and I assume they could have been charged with something much worse for mucking around in a construction zone.

Mea culpa. :smack:

First, the Designated Driver – one person who agrees to either consume no alcohol that night, or have a few drinks but stop drinking well before departure time, so that he is legally (and constitutionally) sober when it’s time to drive. Large groups of friends will engage in this, taking turns as the DD.

Second, my son worked for years as driver, dispatcher, and eventually owner, of cab companies. And they would regularly pick up drunk bar patrons and take them home, sometimes taking an extra driver along to bring home the inebriated person’s car. (I.e., two drivers go from cab company to bar. Driver A drives drunk home in the cab; Driver B drives the drunk’s car to the drunk’s home, and rejoins Driver A there. Drunk pays at least a double fare for the service, which is split between the drivers.) If that arrangement is not used, drunk leaves car in bar parking lot, gets it the next day after sobering up.