Is it Crime to be Intoxicated in Public Place?

August 7, 2021
  • You could be charged for public intoxication with both provincial and federal law. Under section 175 of the Criminal Code it is a criminal offence for a person who is not in a private home to cause disturbance by being drunk in or close to a public place.

Specifically, section 175 states:

(1) Every one who

  • (a) not being in a dwelling-house, causes a disturbance in or near a public place,
    • (i) by fighting, screaming, shouting, swearing, singing or using insulting or obscene language,
    • (ii) by being drunk, or
    • (iii) by impeding or molesting other persons,
  • (b) openly exposes or exhibits an indecent exhibition in a public place,
  • (c) loiters in a public place and in any way obstructs persons who are in that place, or
  • (d) disturbs the peace and quiet of the occupants of a dwelling-house by discharging firearms or by other disorderly conduct in a public place or who, not being an occupant of a dwelling-house comprised in a particular building or structure, disturbs the peace and quiet of the occupants of a dwelling-house comprised in the building or structure by discharging firearms or by other disorderly conduct in any part of a building or structure to which, at the time of such conduct, the occupants of two or more dwelling-houses comprised in the building or structure have access as of right or by invitation, express or implied,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

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Examples of disturbances include being drunk and singing loud, shouting or fighting. This is a summary offence which means it carries a maximum 6-month prison term or a $5000 or both.

The provincial law is the Liquor Licence Act. Section 31(4) states that:

(No person shall be in an intoxicated condition,

(a) in a place to which the general public is invited or permitted access; or

(b) in any part of a residence that is used in common by persons occupying more than one dwelling in the residence.

  • Unlike the federal law, the provincial law does not require there to be a disturbance to be charged with this offence. Merely being drunk in public is sufficient. Section 48 states that:
  •  If a police officer finds a person apparently in contravention of this Act or apparently in contravention of a prescribed provision of the regulations and the person refuses to give his or her name and address or there are reasonable grounds to believe that the name or address given is false, the police officer may arrest the person without warrant.
  • The courts have decided that for a suspect to be arrested, there must be some evidence that the arrest is necessary for the safety of any person or to him or herself. There should be evidence of intoxication to the point where the person has lost the capacity to prevent causing injury to him or herself or be a danger to others.
  • If you are charged with an offence related to public intoxication, contact Kostman and Pyzer Barristers who have a proven track record in criminal courts.
Jonathan Pyzer
Written By:
Jonathan Pyzer
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan is a highly skilled and sought after criminal defence lawyer who represents clients charged with criminal offences all over the Province of Ontario. He is a member in good-standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada, Criminal Lawyers’ Association and Toronto Lawyers Association.
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