Arlington County Virginia Drunk in Public 17-7

Arlington County, Virginia:
“Drunk in Public” Charges More Common?

arlington county criminal lawyer

If you live in Northern Virginia, then you probably are aware of just how relevant Arlington County is to Virginia; it is an economic beacon of productivity. As a locality, it is an area where the most talented young adults are recruited to work, and as a result, the restaurant and nightlife industry has taken off. At the same time, Arlington County is home to many esteemed long-time residents. It is a unique place; this post is meant to dispel a common myth: that in Arlington County, you are far more likely to be charged with “drunk in public.”

Here is what we found, based on the data analyzed and explained below: you are only slightly more likely to be charged with a public intoxication/drunk in public offense in Arlington, at least, when compared to Fairfax County.

If you have read the Vincenzes Law Blog, you know we have studied and analyzed Fairfax County arrest records in the past. It should come as no surprise then, that we will be looking at data from Fairfax County when comparing the relative drunk in public arrests in Arlington.

Fairfax County DIP vs. Arlington County DIP Data

An Arlington County incident report from early this month (February, 2014) provides the following snapshot:

(data from

  • about 6% of total reported offenses in Arlington County were for public drunkenness*
  • about 5% of total reported offenses in Fairfax County during the same time period were for drunk in public / profane language**

*according to the Arlington police incident tracking website for February 5 – 11, 2014,

**according to the Fairfax County arrest report for the same period, February 5-11, 2014.\

Whether you prefer Clarendon, Courthouse, Ballston, or Rossyln

…and no matter your role: as student, employee, U.S. service member, or weekend bar patron, Arlington County should be respected for its’ historic roots, and deserves praise for its progressive ideologies in such a conservative state. This juxtaposition between new and old, and the fear of letting a good thing go bad, could be behind what some say is a very “drunk in public” sensitive police force.

Drunkenness, Drunk in Public, Public Intoxication, Public Swearing, etc.

Whether referred to as…

…the sometimes misleading aspect of this charge:

  • drunk in public, or public intoxication in Virginia, is a Class 4 misdemeanor with a relatively slight maximum penalty. You will not go to jail if convicted…

…but on the other hand,

  • despite relatively minor maximum penalties, the record will be permanent unless you make sure your case is resolved in such a way so as to allow you to expunge the arrest record.

These words are extremely problematic, if they show up on a typical job-seeker’s background check:

  • drunk
  • intoxication
  • drunkenness
  • public swearing or profanity
  • etc.

Whether or not hiring a lawyer makes sense really depends on your goals…not just pertaining to a charge or case, but your long term, career goals. And that is why this otherwise innocuous Class 4 misdemeanor deserves your careful analysis.

Generally speaking, different police departments in different localities have different priorities, and thus different tolerance levels for the same offenses should be expected across the Commonwealth. The problem with prioritizing drunk in public related enforcement, in my opinion as a local Northern Virginia resident, citizen, and Virginia criminal lawyer is this:

As a community invested in the prosperity of our Commonwealth and particularly, the wealth of future generations, police officers must tread carefully, and I ask them to do so. I would ask any police officer or person with influence reading this to consider the effect a permanent criminal record has on a young adult. Consider the years of hard work required to graduate with a Master’s Degree, or the dedication and talent needed to obtain a security clearance. If it is a close call, should we be throwing around reputation and career damaging charges like house beer at happy hour? No. Read more about expunging charges in Virginia here.

Arlington is, for the most part, considered an urban setting in a traditionally conservative state, and in a jurisdiction next to D.C., it is a strange but pleasant change of pace. Our data analysis only examined a single week in February. It should not be relied on to draw long-term conclusions. To learn more about serious criminal alcohol related charges, visit our Virginia criminal lawyer’s violation-specific pages below:

Virginia DWI / DUI / OWI
Penalties, Defenses, and Strategies

Possession of Alcohol

Drunk in Public
(more on the legal issues)

Open Container

Call us for a free consultation: 703.665.3719703.665.3719

Or, send a message online and a Virginia criminal lawyer will reply

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Brenton D. Vincenzes is a lifelong Fairfax County resident and Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer. He is a member of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National College of DUI Defense, NORML, and has been awarded the following in 2014-15: Top 100 Trial Lawyer (National Trial Lawyers) Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer (National Trial Lawyers) Nationally Ranked Top 10 Under 40 Defense Attorney (National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys) 10 Best in Client Satisfaction for Criminal Defense (American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys) Nationally Ranked Top 1% Attorney Award Recipient (National Association of Distinguished Counsel) As a local leader, Mr. Vincenzes mentors troubled youths, volunteers his time to serve at his church, takes select pro bono clients, and strives to improve the community. Mr. Vincenzes represents men, women, and juveniles through zealous and diligent advocacy, strategic planning, and skilled trial work preparation. Mr. Vincenzes' areas of criminal law practice are broad, and include most felonies and misdemeanors such as: reckless driving, DUI & DWI, drug offenses, assault and battery, domestic violence, assault on an officer, destruction of property, alcohol offenses, firearm offenses, larceny, shoplifting, embezzlement, fraud, and other theft offenses, and moving traffic violations among others. His private legal services are available in most Northern Virginia jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, Arlington County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, Stafford County, Alexandria, Manassas, Leesburg, South Riding, and other cities and towns.


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