Q: What is the best course of action I could take to either have dismissed, or reduce the penalties of public intoxication charges? I am a 20 year old student at Penn State. I was riding the bus home when the driver made me get off. I was visibly intoxicated but I was not disrupting the peace or being disorderly. I’m assuming she called the cops before kicking me off the bus because the second I stepped off, the police were waiting. They breathalyzed me and I blew over a .20. They had me admitted to the hospital despite the fact that I requested not to be treated because I was now within walking distance of my apartment. They told me I would receive a citation in the mail for underage drinking, but when the citation came, there were actually two: one for the underage and another for public intoxication. I feel that the public intoxication charge was not justified. Is there anything I can do to help my situation?

A:            Get a lawyer. It sounds like the public intoxication is justified as you were in public.  But, often times in PA, District Justices offer a first time offenders program, or classes, for first time offenders. This way you will avoid having a conviction and a driver’s licenses suspension. There is a driver’s license suspension that PenDOT will issue if you are convicted of the underage. The lawyer will know how to get you out of this with minimal damage. There may be options to pleading guilty and I wouldn’t try this on your own.


Q. I am an education major in PA and I received a citation for drunk in public, should I fight it? Will this show on my record. I was walking down the street at my college campus and an undercover cop pulled up and asked if I was okay then I was given a breathalyzer test and eventually taken me to my dorm where a friend signed a release form. They hand cuffed me but never read me my rights. Next, I have to contact the magisterial district court. I was wondering if I should bring a lawyer to court?

A. You need an attorney to help you avoid a conviction, one way or the other. A conviction of this seemingly harmless summary offense will stay on your record for 5 years. At that point you can pay an attorney to expunge it. In addition, if you are a minor, there will be a driver’s license suspension. There may be first offenders options for students like you and an attorney will know how to access them.


Q: If I am arrested for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, can I fight it? I was on private property, was not read Miranda rights.

A: Miranda warnings do not apply if you were not interrogated. Yes, you can fight the case. You should talk to an attorney as there may be an alternative available for you. If you fight the case, hire a court reporter to record the testimony if it is not electronically recorded by the court. Generally, you cannot be convicted of public intoxication if the conduct was not done in public. If your actions on the private property were visible to the public, or audible to the public, then that is another story.