Public intoxication is not a crime in Massachusetts. However, an individual may be taken into protective custody if his level of intoxication is placing him or others at risk. Several criminal offenses can arise from public intoxication, such as assaulting another person in a bar fight. Simply being drunk (even excessively so) is legal.
If stopped for suspected intoxication, police will typically ask the individual to submit to a Breathalyzer test. Proof is important because a medical emergency or illness can sometimes present as intoxication. If the results confirm what law enforcement suspects, the officer(s) may act as an escort to the individual’s home, to a hospital, or into protective custody at the police station for up to 12 hours. If taken into protective custody, an individual will be transported to a treatment center or to the local police station.
The Protective Custody Law
Being taken into protective custody does not constitute an arrest. No charges will be filed and the individual will not be “under arrest” unless criminal actions take place, such as the detainee’s use of physical force against an officer. During the detention, any possessions that may pose a risk to the individual or others may be temporarily held. If a personal possession requires further investigation, such as a concealed firearm, this item may not be immediately returned upon release.
Although public intoxication is not a crime in MA (and hasn’t been for over 40 years), recent events have had residents questioning the state’s stance on the issue. Just last month, a trial date was set for three people who were detained during a concert at Gillette Stadium in 2012. The three were held by police for being “dangerously intoxicated.” In place of the Colonial-era public intoxication law that was amended in 1971, the Protective Custody Law allows police to detain people who are “unconscious, needing medical attention, or likely to cause harm to themselves or property” for up to 12 hours. However, the plaintiffs in the above case are suing because they claim the police violated the Protective Custody Law and the Fourth Amendment, which protects people against illegal search and seizure.
Public Intoxication Defense Lawyer Serving the Boston Area
If you believe your rights were violated while being held in protective custody for public intoxication, contact us today. We have years of experience in all areas of criminal law, from traffic violations to homicide. Our legal team has successfully defended the rights of thousands of clients, including those charged with various forms of disorderly conduct.
We understand the stress and embarrassment that can accompany disorderly conduct charges. We will be with you every step of the way, and our dedicated legal team will provide all of the necessary time and resources to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. Contact Keegan Law today for a free consultation about your case.