Many people in Virginia are aware the police can arrest someone for drunk driving. However, it is also possible for police officers to make an arrest if an intoxicated person is on public property, particularly if the individual engages in disorderly behavior.
Some people arrested for public drunkenness only end up with a light punishment, perhaps no jail time and only a small fine. However, someone could incur a stiffer punishment in certain circumstances. It depends on the amount and type of charges levied.
A charge of public intoxication
According to state law, an inebriated person may become charged with public intoxication. In this situation, the police may place a person under arrest or take the intoxicated person to a detoxification center if one is in the area. However, the law does not allow for involuntary detention in a detoxification center. A conviction on this charge amounts to a Class 4 misdemeanor, which does not result in jail time.
Other possible charges
Given that alcohol can cause people to act recklessly or experience mood swings, sometimes an intoxicated person starts a fight in a public place or damages property. Given that Virginia law has a disorderly conduct crime on the books, the police may arrest someone on this charge. A conviction amounts to a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could lead to up to a year in jail.
If the disorderly conduct proves violent enough, a prosecutor may go for an assault charge. Additionally, a person intoxicated because of illegal drugs might incur drug possession charges. Since dealing with both a public intoxication charge and additional criminal charges is a possibility, it is important for people in this situation to know their rights.