Public Consumption of Alcohol or Drinking in Public in Arizona under A.R.S. 4-244.20

Public Consumption of Alcohol is defined by Arizona Revised Statutes 4-244.20 and specifically says that is illegal for a person to consume alcohol in a public place, thoroughfare or gathering.

This crime is generally charged when people are taking alcohol outside of an allowed area, or stepping out of a limo or a car with an alcoholic beverage in their hand. Police will see the drink and cite them with this crime.

What Public Consumption of Alcohol in Arizona?

– Today, we’re talking about a misdemeanor offense in Arizona called public consumption of alcohol. It’s housed in Title 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.

It’s 4-244.20, and it’s a fairly common offense, particularly around sporting events or events like the Waste Management Open or Barrett-Jackson or spring training baseball games.

When people are out, they’re outside of the sports arena, they’re outside of the venue, and they are still consuming alcohol, it’s public consumption of alcohol.

And the statute is not very complicated. It’s pretty simple. I have it written out, here. Let’s take a look at what it says.

It is unlawful for a person to consume spirituous liquor in a public place, thoroughfare or gathering. That’s really about it.

There are some exceptions to this rule, and we’ll dive into those, but as you can see, the statute’s not very complicated.

It basically says if you’re drinking alcohol, and you’re in a public place, a thoroughfare, so like a street, an area where people are passing from one place to another, or you’re at a gathering, whatever that means, and you’re consuming alcohol, it’s unlawful. It’s illegal.

There are a couple of other exceptions though, so the actual statute, this paragraph, 20, paragraph 20 is actually pretty long, but it gives some other exceptions.

So, if you are drinking alcohol and you’re at a public recreation area, or you’re at a festival and there is a license to actually consume alcohol in that area, that’s not illegal, so that’s excepted from that rule.

Same if you’re on private property. So, if you’re on private property and you’re on a walkway and you’re just kind of surrounding the private property, they’re going to give you a little bit of a buffer zone.

So, if you’re on that walkway or on that sidewalk and you’re outside somebody’s private property and you’ve got permission to be drinking there, that is not going to be held against you.

They’re not going to consider that to be unlawful.

But if you are walking around Old Town Scottsdale or if you’re walking between venues and you’re drinking alcohol and you don’t have a special license to do it and it’s a public place or it’s a gathering or thoroughfare, and a police officer sees you, they can cite you for public consumption of alcohol.

Like I said, we see this when there are events, typically, and people are traveling from the event, and they may be going to bars or restaurants or Old Town, or they take a limo and they get out of the limo and they’ve got a drink in a cup. Police will see that and they’ll cite the individual for that.

So, what are the penalties for this? So this, in Arizona, is what’s called a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

So, I’ve talked about this at length in other videos, but Arizona, we have three different classifications of misdemeanors.

So, you have civil tickets, which are like traffic tickets, you have major felonies at the top, and then you have misdemeanors in the middle. Within the misdemeanor category, you have three different classes.

Class 1 is the most serious, Class 3 is the least serious, Class 2 is right in the middle. So, you can see, this is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Under the law, a Class 2 misdemeanor, the maximum penalty that you can face for this offense is four months jail, fines of $750 plus surcharges, and up to two years of probation.

Typically, when we see people convicted of this, and we don’t see them when they hire us convicted of it, but courts will like to impose substance abuse counseling, some follow-up treatment, kind of alcohol classes so that this individual can be rehabilitated so that they’re not consuming alcohol in public again.

Now, obviously if you’re watching this video and you’ve been charged with this, you certainly do not want a conviction, and we would agree with you that there’s really, often times, no reason to be convicted of this particular charge.

What we’re able to do in many cases is work this down to what’s called a diversion program. So, a diversion program means you take those classes or you do something.

In exchange for completing a program or taking some substance abuse classes or going to an adult responsibility class or whatever it is we’re able to work out with a prosecutor’s office, as long as you successfully take that and complete what’s required of you, we ask that the government turn around and dismiss the charges.

As long as you haven’t gotten in trouble again, maybe six months later, we turn around, they tear up the charges, you have nothing that goes on your record.

We don’t see these cases go to trial very often.

But if the government was not willing to give you a diversion program, we would certainly want to take this case to trial.

Remember, this is a criminal charge, so the same evidentiary standards apply in this case, even though it may seem pretty minor.

It’s not really a big deal that you have a glass of beer or a mixed drink or a Styrofoam cup or a see-through cup, it’s really not that big of a deal. It’s not the crime of the century, but it still is a criminal charge.

So, the same rules apply when it comes to producing evidence, when it comes to actually convicting you in this case, as it would a DUI, a domestic violence case, even a homicide case, or an aggravated case, an aggravated DUI or something along those lines.

So, anything that’s a criminal charge, it follows the same rules and so we would be holding the government to that same standard.

Did they test the actual alcohol or the liquor or the liquid that they’re claiming is alcohol?

Did they test that?

Did it actually return a result of having alcohol in there?

Did they impound that, meaning your defense attorney can go test it?

Typically not.

I mean, typically the police are just taking it, throwing it out, throwing it away, and they will cite you with this charge and that’s it, so we don’t have any opportunity to retest it.

They didn’t preserve any evidence.

That gives us a lot of good arguments.

So, if you’re facing a public consumption of alcohol charge or a drinking in public or anything similar to that, they’ll call it different things, or consumption in public and different things.

But if you’ve been charged with this and you want to speak with our office about it, give us a call. We only do criminal defense law.

We’ve got a team who only focuses on that area. We deal with these types of issues all the time.

We offer free case evaluations, so give us a call, we’ll have you come in, we’ll sit down, we’ll talk about what happened in your particular case, and make sure you have a good strategy moving forward.

Thanks for watching.

There are areas where drinking alcohol is allowed, even though some people may consider it to be public.

Certain events, like sports game, car shows, golf tournaments, concerts and other festivals may have licenses that allow alcohol to be consumed while on the premises.

Consuming alcohol off the premises, however, is illegal, because the license does not extend past certain physical boundaries.

In most situations, the venues tend to do a good job at ensuring that people dispose of their drinks prior to leaving, but this is not always the case.

Police may be waiting to charge people they see with alcoholic beverages near the entrance or exits of certain events.

In other situations, police will see people “tailgating” at places where tailgating is not permitted. For example, people may be “pre-gaming” before an event and consume alcohol in the parking lot with friends or family prior to entering the venue.

Police on bicycles may witness this and charge these individuals with public consumption of alcohol or drinking in public.

What are the penalties for Public Consumption of Alcohol in Arizona?

In Arizona, public consumption of alcohol is a criminal offense that is considered a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

A class 2 misdemeanor is the “middle” level misdemeanor on the scale, as seen here:

As a class 2 misdemeanor, penalties for public consumption of alcohol can be severe, with a maximum of 4 months jail, fines of $750 plus surcharges and up to 2 years probation.

In reality, most people (especially those with no criminal record) do not see penalties anywhere near those involving jail or probation.

In most cases, the government wants a conviction and a fine. Although avoiding jail is certainly a priority, it is not mandatory for drinking in public and most prosecutors’ offices do not demand it as part of plea negotiations.

Instead, most people want to avoid have a criminal conviction for a crime involving alcohol. People recognize that an employer or background check might cause concern if they see a conviction for public consumption of alcohol.

Accordingly, one of our biggest goals in these cases is typically to proceed in building a defense that prevents a criminal conviction for an alcohol related offense.

What are defenses for Public Consumption of Alcohol in Arizona?

It is important to remember that when you are charged with a crime, you have many protections afforded by the Constitution and the rules of criminal procedure.

Whether you are charged with a class 2 misdemeanor, as in the case of public consumption of alcohol, or a more serious felony, the same rules apply.

At the outset of your case, you are innocent unless you are found guilty by a judge at a trial or you plead guilty to the charges.

Regardless of what happened in your case, the government must prove each element of of the drinking in public statute.

First, they have to prove that you were drinking in a public area not covered by a license or not considered to be on of the exceptions under the law (like private property).

The government can usually do this with an officer’s testimony as to the location of the consumption, but in some situations the police or the prosecutor’s offices do not have all of the facts and can overlook exceptions, permits or licenses.

The more difficult element to prove is regarding proving the liquid being consumed was a spirituous liquor.

In our experience, police officers do not taste or test the liquid and instead usually dump the container out or throw into a trash can.

In some cases this can prove to be a major evidentiary problem, as our team and the defense do not simply take the government’s word that the liquid was alcohol.

It is not our job to disprove the allegation. In other words we do not have to prove that is WAS NOT alcohol. The government has to prove that the liquid was in fact alcohol.

In most cases, the police do not impound the can, the cup, or the alcohol, making it impossible for the defense to do any subsequent testing. This also allows us to make a destruction of evidence argument under certain factual circumstances.

I’ve  been charged with a Drinking in Public and want to speak with a Lawyer.

We can help! Our defense team practices exclusively in criminal defense and we do not take cases from any other field of law (family, business, immigration).

We have helped hundreds of people charged with crimes like consuming alcohol in public successfully resolve their case, protect their record and fight for a winning outcome.

Contact our office at (480) 400-1355 to schedule a complimentary case evaluation with our team.