Public Intoxication In Oklahoma: Everything You Need to Know
In Oklahoma, public intoxication encompasses far more than just being drunk in public. Know the law so you can ensure you are drinking responsibly, and don’t end up spending the night in jail.
What exactly is public intoxication?
Under Oklahoma law, it is illegal to drink any alcohol or be intoxicated in public, unless the establishment where you’re drinking has a special liquor license. Originally, the law was intended to allow people to drink only in their home or on other private property. Now, drinking alcohol in public is part of our everyday lives. However, you are technically in violation of the law the moment you leave a licensed establishment if you are intoxicated.
Taking a drink into a public place is often thought to be an open container violation, but this is actually public intoxication.
What is considered a public place?
Nearly everywhere is considered a public place, except for your private residence. Even businesses that are privately owned are deemed a public place for the purposes of a public intoxication charge, and that business needs a liquor license to legally furnish alcohol. A business cannot sell alcohol to you, and you cannot consume alcohol at that establishment if they don’t have a liquor license. Intoxication is not required; mere consumption is a violation.
How much alcohol consumed qualifies as public intoxication?
Unlike a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, the statute for public intoxication doesn’t set an amount you can drink in order to stay under the legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC). However, if you are administered a breathalyzer test and blow beneath a .08, which is the legal BAC limit for a DUI, most prosecutors decline to file public intoxication charges. This has made .08 the unofficial legal limit for public intoxication.
Despite this, a breathalyzer isn’t the only way a prosecutor can establish you are intoxicated, so don’t think that declining one will prevent you from being charged. Things such as slurred speech, bloodshot watery eyes, the scent of alcohol on you, and stumbling can be used to prove that you are intoxicated even if you decline the breathalyzer.
What if I just have one drink in a public place?
This is still a violation of the public intoxication law. Let’s say you decide to go for a walk in the park and take a mixed drink or beer with you. One beer or mixed drink most likely won’t get you drunk or close to a .08 BAC, but you are still in violation of the public intoxication law. This is because you are drinking alcohol in a public place that doesn’t have a liquor license.
Now, there are some exceptions to this law. Some places, like parks, will have events where they can serve alcohol. For example, the Gathering Place often has festivals where alcohol is served. It is not doing this illegally, and you can absolutely enjoy your drink during these events! The Gathering Place gets a license to serve alcohol for that specific event. Keep in mind that even during these events, there are typically roped off sections where you can drink and you are not allowed to take your alcoholic beverages outside of that area.
Is a private car, when I am a passenger, considered public?
Yes. Many people believe you can drink alcohol while in the car as long as you are not the driver. However, that is not correct. Your vehicle is considered public as long as you are on a public roadway. While drinking an alcoholic beverage as a passenger in a car CAN be considered public intoxication, it would more likely be charged as transporting an open container.
For more information about transporting an open container, check out our article, “Open Container Laws In Oklahoma.”
While the general rule is that you cannot drink in a car, even if you are the passenger, there are a few exceptions. If you are sitting in the back of a chartered bus or limo with a professional driver, you can legally drink an alcoholic beverage. Notably, this exception only applies to certain kinds of buses, such as those that are commonly rented for bachelor parties or 21st birthday parties – it does not apply to city buses or school buses.
If I sit on my porch and drink alcohol, is that considered public?
No. As long as you are on your private property, even if you are in view of the public, this is not public intoxication. You should exercise caution, however – If you reach the sidewalk or street, you ARE in the public space. You also need to make sure you aren’t violating another law in the process. For example, if you live right by a school and are drinking on your porch you may be in violation of having alcohol within close proximity of a school. This type of law is typically a city ordinance, and will vary depending on where you live.
What is the punishment for public intoxication?
The punishment for public intoxication is a minimum of 5 days and a maximum of 30 days in jail. However, it is uncommon to receive jail time for a public intoxication charge. Most counties will just give you a fine, and you often don’t have to go before the court to plead guilty. You will be able to plead directly to the court clerk for a set fine. You can then pay your fine and court costs, and your case will be closed.
If I drink at a bar, am I at risk for a public intox charge?
Technically, yes. Once you become intoxicated and leave the premises of that bar, you are “publicly intoxicated.” However, we don’t frequently see police officers staking out bars for every person who chooses to get drunk. Public intox charges are typically added to an additional charge, such as assault and battery.
What is a public intoxication charge classified as?
Even though you may have simply been given a ticket for public intoxication, the charge is classified as a criminal misdemeanor. This means when you search your name on Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN), it will come up with a “CM” case number for criminal misdemeanor.
Can public intoxication ever become a felony?
Under the current public intoxication laws in Oklahoma, no. Whether it is your first public intoxication or your 30th, the charge is still a misdemeanor. Additionally, the punishment does not change due to a prior conviction. Meaning, even if you have had multiple public intoxication charges in the past, the maximum jail time you can receive is still 30 days.
Can I get a public intoxication charge expunged when I complete my plea requirements?
Most likely, yes! While expunging your record is dependent on many factors, most public intoxication charges are eligible for expungement. If you have a public intoxication charge that you are looking to expunge, take the free expungement quiz at our partner, Tulsa Expungement Guy.
The Bottom Line
Typically, you aren’t going to get charged with public intoxication just for being drunk at a bar. However, if you choose to take an alcoholic beverage to a public place that doesn’t have a special alcohol permit, you are opening yourself up to a possible public intoxication charge.