Public Intoxication in Oklahoma – Law & Punishment

Public Intoxication Definition in Oklahoma

This crime is sometimes referred to as “PI” or “drunk in public.” In Oklahoma, it’s illegal to disturb the peace of someone and either:

  1. Drink or otherwise consume any
    1. intoxicating liquor (unless authorized by the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Control Act),
    2. intoxicating substance or
    3. intoxicating compound of any kind, or
    4. inhale
      1. glue,
      2. paint or
      3. other intoxicating substance
    5. in
      1. any public place, or in or upon any
        1. passenger coach,
        2. streetcar, or in or upon
        3. any other vehicle commonly used for the transportation of passengers, or in or about any
          1. depot,
          2. platform,
          3. waiting station, or
          4. room;
  2. Be drunk or intoxicated in any public or private road, or in any
    1. passenger coach,
    2. streetcar or
      1. any public place or building, or
      2. at any public gathering,
    3. from drinking or consuming such
      1. intoxicating liquor,
      2. intoxicating substance or
      3. intoxicating compound or from inhalation of
        1. glue,
        2. paint, or
        3. other intoxicating substance; or
  3. Be drunk or intoxicated from any cause.

public intoxication arrest oklahoma attorneyThe statute this comes from is 37A O.S. § 6-101(D). Note that there is an element of “disturbing the peace.” This subsection of 6-101 is almost identical to the statute that was used to charge public intoxication prior to the rewrite of Oklahoma’s liquor laws. However, this version added the element of “disturbing the peace.” Because this now makes it more difficult to charge someone with public intoxication, sneaky prosecutors sometimes try to prosecute people under 6-101(A)(8), which states:

“No person shall . . . Consume spirits in public except on the premises of a licensee of the ABLE Commission who is authorized to sell or serve spirits by the individual drink, or be intoxicated in a public place. This provision shall be cumulative and in addition to existing law”

This subsection clearly is in conflict with 6-101(D). The punishment for 6-101(A)(8) is actually harsher than the punishment for 6-101(D). I believe the rule of lenity requires prosecution under only 6-101(D), however I’m not aware of any court that has decided this issue.

As a policy reason, it makes more sense to charge someone under 6-101(D). We want to encourage people to catch a ride home from a bar with Lyft/Uber rather than trying to drive home drunk. If someone is standing outside waiting on their rideshare not bothering anyone–but intoxicated–they shouldn’t be arrested. Being able to charge someone with a crime who is merely standing outside drunk waiting on a rideshare would be bad public policy.

Note that you can be charged with public intoxication in a vehicle. If the driver is sober, you are drunk in the passenger seat, y’all get pulled over, then you could potentially be charged with (or at least arrested for) public intoxication. If that happens, then just remain calm and comply with all lawful orders to reduce your chances of getting arrested. Being polite to a law enforcement officer can go a long way in determining whether you’ll get arrested.

Public intoxication is a charge that an Actual Physical Control (APC) charge sometimes gets reduced to. This is because the defendant may not have been in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, but he or she may have been drunk in public.

Punishment for Public Intoxication

This crime is a misdemeanor. The punishment under 6-101(D) is:

  • 5-30 days in jail
  • $10-$100 fine

The punishment under 6-101(A)(8) is:

  • Up to six months in jail
  • Up to $500 fine

Sources: 37A O.S. § 6-101 & 37A O.S. § 6-125

Current as of April 4 2020. Laws are subject to change at any time! Go to the sources cited above for the most up-to-date law.

Charged with public intoxication in Oklahoma? Call Oklahoma public intoxication lawyer Frank Urbanic in OKC for a free case consultation.

Don’t panic! Call Urbanic.® 405-633-3420