Public Intoxication

Washington, DC

There are two statutory provisions in Washington, D.C. dealing with public intoxication.  Under § 24-604 of the D.C. Code, any person who is intoxicated in public may be taken either to his/her home or to a public/private health facility or detoxification center.  Under § 25-1001, it is illegal for anyone to drink an alcoholic beverage or possess an open container in any public street, park, or parking lot.  The penalty for the latter offense is imprisonment for up to 90 days and/or a fine of up to $500.


According to § 18.2-388 of the Virginia Code, it is illegal in Virginia to curse or swear “profanely” or to be intoxicated in public whether through drugs or alcohol.  In any area in which there is a court-approved detoxification center, a police officer may transport the suspect to the center in lieu of arrest, although nobody can be held at the center involuntarily.  “In public” is defined as a place that is “in open view, visible to the community, and could include a defendant’s private property. The penalty for being found guilty of this offense is a fine of not more than $250.

Public intoxication is also covered by local code in Virginia.  See below for a county-by-county description of the offense in Northern Virginia: