What Is the Crime of Intoxication in Utah
It’s not just called “public intoxication” anymore, because it doesn’t have to be in public to be a crime, but the standard is different depending on whether the location is private or public. Here’s the difference under the Utah intoxication statute (which you can find at 76-9-701):
- If in public, the person must be intoxicated “to a degree that the person may endanger the person or another”
- If in private, the person must be intoxicated and “unreasonably disturb other persons”
So, basically, it’s one of those crimes that give the police, and later the judge (or jury), a large degree of discretion, because they have to decide what “may endanger” or “unreasonably disturbs” means.
What Does May “May Endanger” Mean?
Fortunately, the Utah Supreme Court has provided some guidance in this area, by explaining that it’s not enough just to be drunk. In other words, just saying that all drunk people may fall down or may get in a fight or may drive their car is not enough. The “may endanger” language means that there must be a “reasonable likelihood of harm based on the circumstances” and not just a “speculative possibility.”
In one case, for example, the court found a guy guilty of intoxication for being drunk and “puffing his chest out and taking a defensive posture similar to a boxer’s” when he saw the police officers. That’s enough circumstantial evidence to say he “may endanger others.” But note: if the same guy got just as drunk at home, and he “puffed his chest out and took a defensive posture similar to a boxer’s” while standing in front of the mirror, he’s not committing a crime, he’s just looking stupid. As in many areas of criminal law, context is everything.
Penalties for Intoxication in Utah:
Intoxication is a Class C Misdemeanor in Utah, so the maximum possible sentence is 90 days in jail and up to a $750 fine. However, the standard fine is much lower (about $200), and most convictions will not result in jail time. For many people, the most important aspect of an intoxication charge is keeping the conviction off their record for job purposes.
What to Do If You’ve Been Charged With Intoxication
If you’re interested in fighting you intoxication charge and keeping it off your record, contact me to discuss your case at a free consultation. As discussed above, it’s a charge that gives the judge or jury wide discretion, so it can often help to have a good defense attorney on your side, to bring out the right evidence and frame the argument in your favor.