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Public Intoxication & Underage Drinking

Public intoxication and underage drinking are prosecuted aggressively in Indiana and can carry serious penalties. Excise police have initiated vigorous alcohol enforcement campaigns, including on college campuses and surrounding areas.  The excise police have also targeted underage sober drivers who have provided transportation for a 21-year-old to a liquor store, citing the driver with the crime of being a minor transporting alcohol on a public street. In addition to criminal penalties, alcohol-related offenses for college students often result in university disciplinary actions at Purdue, Indiana, and Ball State.

Public Intoxication

A criminal charge of public intoxication can carry serious penalties and is often based on very subjective evidence. A criminal charge of public intoxication in Indiana carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Throughout Indiana, plea negotiations on public intoxication cases can vary widely. In some Indiana counties, a public intoxication charge can be resolved by a Diversion Agreement whereby no conviction is entered. In other counties, even first-time offenders on a charge of public intoxication are offered plea agreements that require jail time.

The evidence used to support a charge of public intoxication is often very subjective. In 2012, the legislature redefined the crime of public intoxication to require the additional elements of endangerment or breaching the peace. This change in the public intoxication law is helpful in defending persons accused of public intoxication for walking home from a bar. 


If you are charged with public intoxication in Indiana, it is important to contact an experienced criminal attorney. Depending on the county and the criminal history of the defendant, public intoxication charges can result in harsh criminal consequences. However, many public intoxication charges can be effectively defended with proper legal representation.

Indiana law defines the crime of public intoxication as follows:

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, if the person:

   (1) endangers the person's life;

   (2) endangers the life of another person;

   (3) breaches the peace or is in imminent danger of breaching the peace; or

   (4) harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.


The Indiana public intoxication law does not include any reference to a breath test result. Thus, the evidence used to prosecute a public intoxication charge is often the mere observations of the arresting police officer. In prosecuting a public intoxication charge, the evidence asserted by the State often includes allegations that the defendant smelled like alcohol, had red watery eyes, and exhibited unsteady balance. These allegations can often be effectively challenged or explained by a defendant. A single beer can cause the smell of alcohol; red watery eyes can be caused by cigarettes, cold weather, or allergies; and allegations of unsteady balance can be refuted by defense-friendly witnesses.

To convict someone of public intoxication in Indiana, the State must also prove that the person was in a public place. If a person is 21 years of age and is intoxicated on private property, they have not committed the offense of public intoxication. Many public intoxication charges can be defended because of a lack of evidence that the defendant was intoxicated in a public place.

Underage Drinking

A person must be 21 years of age to legally consume alcohol in Indiana. Underage drinking is prosecuted aggressively in some Indiana counties. It is a Class C misdemeanor for a minor to knowingly possess an alcoholic beverage, consume alcohol, or transport alcohol on a public highway when not accompanied by at least one parent. A Class C misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500.00 fine.

If a minor transports alcohol in a vehicle without their parent, or drives with alcohol in their system, a court may order the minor’s driving privileges suspended for up to one year. If a minor is charged with an alcohol offense that involved a vehicle, it is extremely important to obtain an experienced criminal attorney to seek to avoid a lengthy license suspension. Minors charged with underage drinking who have prior convictions may face much harsher plea offers from prosecutors.

The resolution of underage drinking cases can vary significantly, depending on the facts of the specific case, whether a vehicle was involved, the county of the alleged offense, and whether the minor has any prior criminal record. An experienced criminal attorney can assist the minor in defending the case or negotiating a mitigated resolution. With offices in Lafayette, Bloomington, Anderson, and Fort Wayne, Gibson Law Office represented clients statewide.


Talk to an experienced criminal attorney now.

You need to act fast to protect your rights. Certain defenses and motions must be filed prior to deadlines set by the court. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will develop a strategy to attack the evidence in your case. Schedule a free consultation now.

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