Being Drunk in Public Is Not a Crime, According to Arizona Appeals Court

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Steve Snodgrass


Being drunk in public is not a crime, according to an Arizona Appeals Court decision.

The court was considering the case of a man cited for public intoxication in Scottsdale in December 2011, and the three-member panel unanimously ruled that state law has a specific ban on city ordinances outlawing public intoxication.

The state law says:
No county, municipality or other political subdivision may adopt or enforce any local law, ordinance, resolution or rule having the force of law that includes being a common drunkard or being found in an intoxicated condition as one of the elements of the offense giving rise to criminal or civil penalty or sanctions, but nothing in this article shall affect any laws, ordinances, resolutions or rules against drunken driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or other similar offenses involving the operation of vehicles, aircraft, boats, machinery or other equipment, or regarding the sale, purchase, dispensing, possessing or using of alcoholic beverages at stated times and places or by particular classes of persons.
The case was tossed by the municipal court, but the city prosecutor's office appealed the case to the Maricopa County Superior Court. The county court reversed the municipal court's decision, as the court ruled Scottsdale's ban on a person being "under the influence of alcohol" in public is not being the same as being "in an intoxicated condition," which is decriminalized under state law.

The appeals court acknowledged those two phrases have different meanings, but that doesn't solve the question.

"A person who is 'intoxicated' is in fact 'under the influence' to a particular, greater degree," the opinion states.

Therefore, Scottsdale's ordinance against being "under the influence" of alcohol in public conflicts with state law, the court ruled.

The appeals court opinion also says that Arizona's 1972 law banning such ordinances "signaled the Legislature's determination that alcoholism should be treated as a disease and not criminalized unless a person under the influence of alcohol engages in specified activities such as driving or operating other types of vehicles or equipment."

The City of Scottsdale could still appeal this case to the Arizona Supreme Court. The appeals court's ruling can be found below:

Arizona v. Coles



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32 comments
Tom Hokans
Tom Hokans

"But officer, I don't want to be drunk in public, I want to be drunk in a bar!" - Ron White

Traci Phelps
Traci Phelps

Not being able to walk straight is against the law?

Kirk Dooley
Kirk Dooley

It's not a crime. It's one of the prerequisites for election to the state legislature -- and the Ninth Floor.

Isac Dimas
Isac Dimas

I like how they used Steele in the cover pic. 211 BABY!

Kali Waters
Kali Waters

Michael what about being punk in Dublic ?

Kyle Rowles
Kyle Rowles

Its one of those damned if you do damned if you dont

soulalibi
soulalibi

If they want to arrest drunkards in public. I suggest they arrest those who are carrying a weapon, whether they are legally allowed or not. Alcohol impairs critical thinking and logical reasoning.

Brandon Lara
Brandon Lara

Wow just tag me on an aa post Gabriel Zermeno Casillas

Gabriel Zermeno Casillas
Gabriel Zermeno Casillas

Brandon Lara Fabian Tellez Nick Sanchez Anthony Pappas Enrique Lara Should be a relief for you guys

Alex Johns
Alex Johns

Being drunk is not something visible. Other actions that indicate public drunkenness are what you were stopped for.

Kyle Hague
Kyle Hague

oh man... so there are now a much of people from the weekly mugshots segment that this same journalist writes that are not actually criminals? Are they going to get an apology?

Paul Kvitkovskyi
Paul Kvitkovskyi

Public intoxication should not be a crime, but drunken disorderly certainly is. That is a lot more then a glass of of wine or a couple of beers. When an individuals judgement is so impaired that they pose a danger to themselves and others, that is time for them to visit the local drunk tank.

Danger Maserati
Danger Maserati

Good t have cleared up It is insane to have the legiislation on the books that Scottsdale has in place. By Scottsdale law ANY person with ANY alcohol in their systems is guilty of public intoxication. Have a sip at that art gallery you just spent $10K on a painting. GUILTY !. 3 beers at Patties' GUILTY !.. Partake in Communion and have wine GUILTY !.

Benjamin Meyer
Benjamin Meyer

Interesting. ASU students in Tempe wish it was as progressive..with all the recent arrests there

Tommy Parsons
Tommy Parsons

You sure as hell get busted in Prescott for stepping off a sidewalk...I don't see the bogus cops in this town from stopping it here! Pretty sad, when people want to walk home, and find a cab after leaving Whiskey Row!

Traci Phelps
Traci Phelps

I've been stopped walking home from a bar drunk. It was for no other reason than being drunk.

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

Well that is one law that will be changed shortly... republicans (who run this state) don't believe in treatment or diseases and only believe in incarceration in the private prison system


They love caging people and have to make their money somehow...

Brandon Doyle
Brandon Doyle

Being a dumbass still is though, just keep that in mind kids.

Taft Prentice
Taft Prentice

Nope! But drinking in public is! Fair enough!

Original-American
Original-American

Supposed the tax payers wasted millions, just to incarcerate a drunkard who passed out in public somewhere. I don't see these nuisances a public threat or safety, anymore than seeing racist angry stricken gun carriers in business establishments threatening the life of American citizens. Such as in the case with the Walmart shooting earlier this year.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

Seriously, the po-po and municipal court didn't know this? I guess anyone convicted for merely being shitfaced in public is going to want it removed from his sheet.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

If they did, not another liberal would ever get elected to office.

shadeaux
shadeaux

Like wagging your finger in the President's face?

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

@eric.nelson745  They knew...


They didn't care except anything but their stats and their kickbacks from the private prison industry

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