Open Container Law: Tailgating & Public Intoxication Charges in Pittsburgh, PA
There is nothing more fun this time of year than tailgating, whether it’s at Heinz Field, Consol Energy Center, or one of our local Pittsburgh college campuses. It’s fun to spend some time with your friends, enjoying good food and a few drinks before kick-off. However, as winter approaches and the wind picks up on the Allegheny, people are tempted to drink a little more in hopes of staying warm before the game, often drinking more than they should. If you get out of hand, you run the risk of a public drunkenness charge in Pittsburgh.
Can I be arrested for drinking while tailgating in Pennsylvania?
Although specific private parking lots at and around Heinz Field where people like to tailgate for Steelers and Panthers games may allow drinking, any time you leave private property your actions are subject to police scrutiny. Police can charge you for an open container if you are walking around with an open beer between bars or between the car and the stadium. Nonetheless, the harder charge to avoid is public drunkenness.
In Pennsylvania, a person can be arrested for public drunkenness if he or she is “in any public place manifestly under the influence of alcohol to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or annoy persons in his vicinity.” As you can see, this is a relatively wide definition. When you are tailgating and excited for a game, you may be loudly chanting or running around in a way that could be considered annoying to an officer. This means that the police could arrest any person who seems out of control or simply more intoxicated than the other people in a group. If you stand out for some reason to a police officer, you could be questioned. It is important to remember, though, that police around the stadium during tailgates usually aren’t targeting people to arrest for public drunkenness, so by simply staying by your car in a place where drinking is permitted, you may avoid these charges altogether.
What should I do if am being arrested for public drunkenness at a tailgate?
Unfortunately, someone is arrested at almost every game for public drunkenness. If the unlucky person is you, remember that you do not have to incriminate yourself. If a police officer asks you how much you have been drinking, you don’t have to answer. You have the right to politely decline their questions. Just remember to be polite and to try not to get angry or belligerent. This will only serve as further evidence of your intoxication, and could even lead to other charges.
You also are not obligated to consent to a breath or other chemical test if you are only under suspicion of public drunkenness. Police may suggest that you consent, but this is only a law for motorists. If you are not driving, it is your choice. If police cannot definitely prove that your behavior was caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, the charges may be dropped. Finally, even though public drunkenness is only a summary citation, it is important to get an attorney to represent you before you go to court to face the charges. The perception associated with a public drunkenness charge can hurt your career and cost you significant fines and even jail time. It is best to see what experienced Pittsburgh criminal lawyers can do to get you a plea or get the charges dropped.
Contact Our Pittsburgh Public Intoxication Attorneys
If you have been arrested for public drunkenness or another summary offense, call Mike Worgul and Samir Sarna from Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC right away at (412) 281-2146 to see how we can help. We are available 24/7 for a free consultation.