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Public Intoxication Laws in Illinois to Keep in Mind for St. Patrick’s Day

On Behalf of | Mar 2, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

During the lull between Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day, it’s wise to review public intoxication and alcohol-related laws. In the state of Illinois, it is not illegal to be out and about while under the influence of alcohol. However, public intox can lead to (or intensify) other infractions. If you are charged with a crime involving alcohol, your next move should be seeking the advice of a criminal defense lawyer.

Public intoxication
According to 20 ILCS 301, Section 55-15, simply being in public under the influence of alcohol is not a crime in Illinois. You cannot be ticketed or arrested if “being intoxicated [is] the sole basis of the offense.” Some counties in other states, like Minnesota, do have statutes outlawing disruptive public intoxication by drugs or alcohol. To be considered intoxicated, a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) must be 0.08% or above.

Underage drinking
Anyone under the age of 21 caught in possession of or under the influence of alcohol could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This means you’re looking at up to one year in jail, a fine between $500 and $2,500, or both. According to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, minors found consuming alcohol might have to complete community service, too. Note: Anyone over 21 who supplies minors with alcohol will also be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

Open container laws
It is illegal to drink alcohol from an open container in a public space in Chicago according to Ordinance 8-4-030. Sipping beer on a restaurant patio is totally fine; carrying an open beer off the patio and walking down the block to greet your buddy is illegal. Offenders can expect to pay between $100 and $500 in fines, serve up to six months in jail, or a combination of the two.

These fines increase when a parade is involved. This year’s Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place on Saturday, March 14, 2020. No alcohol, open containers, or personal water bottles will be allowed along the parade route. Fines for violating open container laws within 800 feet of a parade range between $500 and $1,000 (plus the possibility of imprisonment up to six months).

Public urination
A common offense when combining parades, drinking, and celebration is public urination. As outlined by Ordinance 8-4-081, public urination and public defecation could cost the offender between $100 and $500, earn them a five to ten day stay in jail, or both. Again, if the infraction occurs within 800 feet of a parade route, that fine increases to $500 to $1,000.

Public indecency
Statute 720 ILCS 5/11-30 says any person over the age of 17 who exposes themselves or engages in sexual activity in public can be charged with public indecency. Public indecency is considered a Class A misdemeanor. But, if you’re charged with this same infraction more than three times or you’re older than 18 and happen to be within 500 feet of a school while kids are present, it becomes a Class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies are punishable by between one and three years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines.

Disorderly conduct
There is a thin line between public intox and disorderly conduct. Again, being intoxicated in public is legal. But as Chicago Ordinance 8-4-010 states, if a person “appears in any public place manifestly under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or other drug…to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or annoy persons in his vicinity,” he can be ticketed and fined $500. Basically, if your drunk behavior annoys or endangers yourself or others, you can be ticketed.

Aggravated assault
Location, status of the victim, and weapons used distinguish aggravated assault from assault (720 ILCS 5/Art. 12, Subdiv. 5 heading). If you assault a person in a public place, it’s considered aggravated assault. Whereas assault only is a Class C misdemeanor, aggravated assault can be either a Class 4 or Class 3 felony.

Being intoxicated is not a strong defense against the crimes listed above. Criminal defense attorneys can help outline the best course of action in these situations. If you or someone you know has been charged with any of these offenses, contact Richard at Fenbert & Associates, LLC for a free consultation.