Drunk in Public: Virginia Code § 18.2-388

What is “Drunk in Public” in Virginia

According to Virginia Code § 18.2-388,

“If any person profanely curses or swears or is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

This means that it is illegal to profanely curse or swear or be intoxicated in public. The Virginia Court of Appeals has stated that “public” is a “place in open view, visible to the community.” This law has been adopted in many city or county codes: Arlington Drunk in Public (17-7), Fairfax Drunk in Public (5-1-1), Alexandria Drunk in Public (13-1-5).

Many people think of “public” as being at a restaurant, at a bar, or on a crowded, public street. In Virginia, however, you can be charged with Drunk in Public by being visibly drunk on your own front porch.


Drunk in public is a Class 4 misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $250. Virginia Code § 18.2-388.

Should you hire an attorney?

While this charge does not involve the possibility of jail time, it is imperative that you fight this charge just as seriously. In Virginia, a misdemeanor conviction cannot be expunged and thus it will stay on your record for life. Do not just pay the fine.

There are several ways an attorney can help you navigate this charge to try to get it dismissed or at the very least lowered. There are several reasons that a person can appear to be drunk but in fact they may not be. Police are not required to do a breathalyzer or a sobriety test when arresting someone for Drunk in Public, so it is often your word against the Police Officer.

An attorney can help you navigate any defense, lack of evidence, or mitigating circumstances that will help your case. Call now for a consultation with an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney.