What should you know about public intoxication laws in Iowa?

In Iowa, a person shall not be intoxicated in a public place. Moreover, a person shall not use or consume alcoholic liquor in any public place except premises covered by a liquor license. That means that you can have a beer in a bar or in your own apartment, while watching a Hawkeyes game, and, at the same time, you cannot drink beer in a city park in Des Moines.

This is an old-school approach. Our neighboring states have different rules concerning public intoxication. For example, in Minnesota, no person may be charged with or convicted of the offense of public drunkenness. Illinois went even further. Now, it is legal to be intoxicated in Illinois and, additionally, Illinois state law prohibits any kind of local ordinance that makes public intoxication illegal.

However, in Iowa, if a person is intoxicated in a public place, he or she could be arrested. Unlike in DUI cases, no specific blood alcohol level is required for arresting a person for intoxication in a public place. The Iowa Supreme Court have not stated a general rule for determining what private or public places are. At the same time, the Court considered the front stairs of a family home as a private place. Nevertheless, front steps and common hallways of an apartment house are public places.

So, if the officer feels that you are intoxicated in a common hallway or in a bar, he or she can arrest you. What are the consequences of that? First, of course, you will be arrested. Second, the officer will search you. Third, it can affect your criminal record at least for a period of time because the statute provides the conditions for when a public intoxication conviction can be expunged.

Public intoxication is not a serious crime. However, it can affect your criminal record. Thus, if you were charged with public intoxication, you should call us. After investigating the charge against you, we will be able to help.

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