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Alcohol is a well-ingrained aspect of American society, and that trend is no different here in Oklahoma. While there is nothing wrong with having a few drinks, there is a fine line between enjoying a beverage and creating a potentially dangerous situation. When that line is crossed, individuals can face a number of different Oklahoma alcohol offenses.
Simply being drunk in public is not itself against the law, but causing a disturbance when you’re drunk is. Individuals charged with this activity face criminal liability for allegations of being "drunk in public." Moreover, many individuals having harmless fun find themselves charged with alcohol offenses, as the term "public" is usually defined to mean, a city street, sidewalk, restaurant, recreational area, and any other place open to the public. However, a violation of this act in itself will not always result in the arrest of the individual. In order to be convicted, the state must prove that the individual had surpassed the level of intoxication and is a public nuisance to themselves or others.
The chances of fighting a case such as this depend on many different factors. The number of law enforcement and civilian witnesses will often times control the direction of any alcohol-related prosecution (aside from driving under the influence), because people are very rarely given any sort of field sobriety test or breathalyzer when they are confronted by the cops on allegations they are a drunk nuisance. More often than not, the decision whether to arrest a person in this situation will come down to the subjective and personal observations of the law enforcement officer and his or her "training and experience."
Law enforcement officers may arrest individuals where they have probable cause to believe a person is so drunk in public that he or she is a threat to health and safety. However, it is important to note that public intoxication and drinking in public are not the same charges. And although drinking in public (i.e., not in a public establishment where alcohol is permitted) is almost always outlawed or at least looked at negatively in Oklahoma, laws are not always clear about what that means. Furthermore, Oklahoma society has a tendency to be overly-sensitive toward any sort of drinking in public.
One of the questions often asked by persons arrested for public intoxication is "what if the cops didn't give me a breathalyzer or blood test before they arrested me?" The short answer is that law enforcement can still arrest you even if you are not given a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer. The long answer, as always, depends on the facts of the case. As noted above, the law enforcement officer's personal opinion regarding intoxication will usually be the deciding factor as to whether someone will be arrest for public intoxication. That is a double-edged sword though: if a person is willing to fight the allegations at trial, the officer will not likely have anything to support his or her allegations aside from his or her personal observations; however, if a person does not have the courage or the resources to challenge the allegations at trial, then he or she may be a victim of a cop's misplaced beliefs (or unfounded accusations) regarding alcohol intoxication.
Open container laws are typically laws against public drinking. These laws exist because law enforcement views the presence of open containers to mean alcohol is currently being consumed. This can potentially add a significant hurdle for anyone facing allegations for an alcohol offense; though it may be easy for the prosecution to prove that an open container was present, it is not always true that the open container was being consumed. As such, prosecutors try to bootstrap the charges to cure the obvious gap in logic. Regardless, loopholes in certain laws allow for the public consumption of alcohol—such as during sporting events or on the campuses of various colleges.
In the state of Oklahoma it is also illegal to have an open container in your vehicle, and can lead to drunk driving charges.
Under Oklahoma law, it is a felony offense to provide alcoholic beverages to the mentally deficient, the intoxicated, and persons under 21 years of age. Alcoholic beverages also may not be sold where unclothed persons or persons with exposed private parts are present on the same premises. Conviction of this crime is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 for each offense.
If you or a loved one has been charged with an alcohol offense in Oklahoma, time is of the essence. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer, and you need one right now. Call the Law Offices of Adam R. Banner, P.C., and retain an accomplished attorney ready to fight for your rights. Call us today at (405) 778-4800 for a free consultation.