I have been asked this question by numerous clients over the years. The short answer is that just being drunk is not a crime unless you are under the legal age. There is no statute in Illinois which makes it illegal to be drunk in public. In addition, there is actually a statute in Illinois that prevents counties and municipalities from passing or enforcing any sort of ordinance that would have intoxication as the sole basis of the offense.
But just because public intoxication in and of itself is not a crime does not mean that you cannot be charged for other offenses in which intoxication is an element. For example, while you cannot be charged for public intoxication, you could be charged for driving under the influence if you are operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. In addition, you are still liable for crimes you commit while intoxicated as intoxication is rarely a viable defense to a crime. For example, if you are drunk and you urinate in public, you can be charged for disorderly conduct, and if you punch someone while you are intoxicated, you can still be charged for battery. In addition, it is illegal to possess alcohol in some places, such as on school property during a school day. Your local government may also have ordinances prohibiting the possession of alcohol in certain places, such as in Chicago, where you cannot drink alcohol on public streets, alleys, or sidewalks.
The lesson of this post is that you are still responsible for your actions when you are drunk, even though just being drunk in public is not a crime. The best way to remain in control is to know your limits and stop when you had enough alcohol so as to not lose control of your actions. You should also know where and when you are allowed to drink and where you are not. If you face charges arising from an incident involving alcohol, contact the attorneys at John W. Callahan, Ltd. for representation.
–Posted by John W. Callahan, DUI attorney