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Florida laws don't just regulate the consumption of alcohol; they also regulate the behavior that may result from intoxication. One specific statute worth noting is Florida Statute 856.011, known as the "Disorderly Intoxication" law. If you or someone you know might be facing disorderly intoxication charges in Florida, it's crucial to understand what this law entails, the potential penalties, and what defenses might be available.
What Is Disorderly Intoxication According To Florida Law?
Under Florida Statute 856.011, disorderly intoxication is defined by two primary conditions:
- Being intoxicated and endangering the safety of another person or property.
- Being intoxicated or consuming alcoholic beverages in a public place or any public conveyance, leading to a public disturbance.
In simpler terms, this means that you could face a disorderly intoxication charge if you're drunk and causing some sort of risk to others or their property, or if you're causing a scene in public while intoxicated.
Penalties For Disorderly Intoxication In Florida
If you are found guilty of violating this statute, you'll be facing a misdemeanor of the second degree. According to Florida Statutes, the penalties could include:
- Up to 60 days in jail
- A fine of up to $500
The statute also has provisions for those considered habitual offenders. If you've been convicted or have forfeited collateral under this statute three times within 12 months, you may be committed to a treatment resource for up to 60 days.
Alternatives To Incarceration: The Role Of Law Enforcement
The statute includes an alternative to jail time for intoxicated individuals. A law enforcement officer, rather than arresting you, may opt to send you home or to a public or private health facility. However, they will also ensure that any commercial transportation used for this purpose is prepaid by you. This action by the officer is considered part of their official duty.
In-Depth Look At Defenses For Florida's Disorderly Intoxication Charges
Challenging The "Intoxication" Element
The statute outlines that you must be "intoxicated" to be guilty of disorderly intoxication. One defense strategy could be to challenge the evidence or methods used to determine your intoxication level. If there was no reliable evidence to prove you were intoxicated—no Breathalyzer test, blood test, or concrete observational evidence—this could be grounds to challenge the charges.
Questioning The "Endangerment" Or "Public Disturbance" Element
The statute requires that your intoxicated state must either "endanger the safety of another person or property" or "cause a public disturbance." If the prosecution can't prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, the charges might not hold up. For instance, you might argue that your actions, though perhaps loud or noticeable, did not actually cause a disturbance or endanger anyone. Detailed witness testimony, video evidence, or other documentation can support such a defense.
Examining Law Enforcement Conduct
The statute allows law enforcement to take the accused to their home or a health facility instead of arresting them. One could argue that if the situation were genuinely endangering others, law enforcement would not have had the option to simply take you home. Thus, this clause in the statute could serve as a basis to argue that your conduct was not sufficiently disruptive or dangerous to warrant the charges.
Establishing Lack Of Public Presence
The statute focuses on behavior that is either "in a public place" or "upon any public conveyance." If you can prove that you were not in a public place or on public transportation when the alleged events took place, this might negate the charges.
Citing Medical Or Emergency Situations
In some cases, intoxication may occur due to medical conditions or emergencies. If it's proven that the intoxication was involuntary or unavoidable due to a medical emergency, this could serve as a strong defense, though this is relatively rare.
Habitual Offender And Treatment Resource
If you have been convicted or have forfeited collateral under this statute three times in the preceding 12 months, you are deemed a habitual offender. However, the statute permits commitment to a treatment resource instead of jail time. This could be considered a mitigating alternative rather than a defense, but it can significantly affect the outcome of your case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Florida's Disorderly Intoxication Statute (856.011)
What Does "Intoxicated" Mean Under This Law?
The term "intoxicated" generally refers to being under the influence of alcohol or any substance to the degree that your normal faculties are impaired.
What Is A "Public Disturbance"?
A "public disturbance" under Florida Statute 856.011 typically means any behavior that disrupts peace and order in a public space. To convict you, the prosecution must prove that your actions indeed led to a public disturbance, which can be contested with the right legal strategy.
What Are The Penalties For A Conviction?
If convicted under this statute, you face a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to sixty days in jail and a $500 maximum fine, according to the Florida Statutes.
What Happens If I'm A Habitual Offender?
If you have been convicted or have forfeited collateral under this law three times in the past 12 months, you could be committed to a treatment resource for up to 60 days instead of facing jail time.
How Will A Conviction Affect My Future?
A conviction can have far-reaching implications, including a criminal record that could impact employment opportunities, housing applications, and even social relationships. Therefore, it's crucial to understand your legal options and consult an experienced attorney.
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