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You Must Be in a “Public Place” to Be Convicted of Public Intoxication

a man on the side of the rode, publicly intoxicated

West Virginia law makes it a misdemeanor criminal offense to appear in a public place while in an intoxicated condition, to drink alcohol liquor in a public place, or to tender a drink of alcoholic liquor to another person in a public place. Public Intoxication is a very common charge for West Virginia University college students in both the City of Morgantown Municipal Court and the Monongalia County Magistrate Court due to the large WVU student population in Morgantown.

A required element that the prosecution must prove for an individual to be convicted of Public Intoxication is that the person was actually in a “public place.”

West Virginia law defines “public place” broadly as “any place, building, or conveyance to which the public has, or is permitted to have access, including restaurants, soda fountains, hotel dining rooms, lobbies, and corridors of hotels and any highway, street, lane, park, or place of public resort or amusement.”

If, for example, you are on High Street, Spruce Street, or any public street or sidewalk in Morgantown, or if you are traveling on public transportation, then you are in a “public place” for purposes of the Public Intoxication law.

However, there are certain exceptions to the Public Intoxication law. A “public place” under West Virginia law does not include:

  • Any place that is licensed under West Virginia law to sell alcoholic liquors for consumption on the premises; or
  • A college or university sports stadium, which holds a special license to sell wine

It is a defense to the crime of Public Intoxication if you are charged or cited while you were located in an area that the law does not classify as a public place. In Morgantown, this can include Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, the WVU Coliseum, and any place that is licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on its premises.

If you have been charged or cited with Public Intoxication, give one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys a call today.