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Disorderly Intoxication: Having Fun Or Breaking The Law?

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As summer continues, tourists flock to the beaches of Miami and Fort Lauderdale from all over the world. Miami-Dade County provides visitors with great weather, a good-time atmosphere, and beautiful scenery.

However, while tourism is one of Miami-Dade County's most lucrative industries, arresting and prosecuting tourists also generates a lot of revenue in court costs and fines.

Click here to learn more about what to do if arrested while on vacation.

One of the most common "tourist crimes" is disorderly intoxication. Under Florida Statute Section 856.011:

(1) No person in the state shall be intoxicated and endanger the safety of another person or property, and no person in the state shall be intoxicated or drink any alcoholic beverage in a public place or in or upon any public conveyance and cause a public disturbance.

(2) Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.

A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of 60 days in jail, 6 months probation, and a $500 fine.

The distinction should be made between simply having a good time or breaking the law. If you are 21 or over, you may drink. So long as you are not driving or operating heavy machinery, you can drink to excess and become intoxicated. Many people do. However, the law states that you cannot become intoxicated and "endanger the safety of another person or property," and that you cannot drink and "cause a public disturbance."

The statute is broad, permitting law enforcement officers to literally arrest anyone who is drunk and loud. It is a "catch all" offense, in my opinion, allowing cops to arrest you when they have nothing else.

Being loud, by itself, is not disorderly intoxication. However, meandering through a busy roadway or causing a crowd to gather, may create the probable cause an officer needs in order to arrest you. Having a loud argument with a significant other in public may also lead to a disorderly intoxication charge if a crowd begins to form.

Arguably, freedom of speech comes heavily into play when dealing with a disorderly intoxication charge. Words alone cannot get you arrested but actions that follow may.

If you are arrested for disorderly intoxication, you may be taken to jail (physical arrest) or issued a written promise to appear. If you are from out of town, you should contact a criminal defense attorney so that your presence can be waived and you can avoid a trip back to Miami-Dade County.

If you are a Miami-Dade County local, you should still consider retaining a defense attorney so that your rights can be protected.

Eric Matheny represents clients in Miami-Dade and Broward. Call today to discuss your case.