Laws on Drinking in Public in Indiana
Generally, there are no restrictions on drinking in public in Indiana. This means that it is completely legal for adults, over the age of 21, to carry alcoholic drinks in public and on sidewalks. It is illegal, however, to be drunk in a public place, provided that the person’s behavior is endangering their own life or the life of another person; breaching the peace, or harassing; annoying, or alarming another person. In other words, if your behavior is dangerous, annoying, or offensive to others, you risk being charged with public intoxication or given a drinking ticket in Indiana.
If you have questions on open container laws or public intoxication in Indiana or have been charged with a criminal offense related to the consumption of alcohol, do not hesitate to contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our Indianapolis law firm is led by two former deputy prosecutors who both have experience both prosecuting and defending cases involving alcohol and intoxication. Suffice it to say that our attorneys understand the Indiana drinking laws inside and out and are in a strong position to anticipate how the prosecution may approach your case.
To speak with an Indiana criminal defense attorney today, call 317-751-7186 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. We stand ready to protect you and your rights and will work tirelessly to secure the best possible outcome in the case against you.
Open Container Laws in Indiana
As stated earlier, there are generally no restrictions on drinking in public in Indiana. There are, however, open container laws regarding the possession of an open container of alcohol in your car. As stated in Indiana Code 9-30-15-3, a person in a motor vehicle that is in operation or located on the right-of-way of a public highway who possesses a container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of the vehicle that has been opened, possesses a broken seal, or which has had contents removed, commits a Class C infraction in Indiana.
That being said, there are some key exceptions to this law. First, it is not illegal to have an open container in the trunk or in an area not typically occupied by a person, such as a truck bed. Second, it is not illegal to store an open container in a locked, fixed center console or other similar locked compartment. Finally, if the open container is possessed by a person not driving the vehicle and that person is either (1) in a passenger compartment designed, maintained or used primarily for the transportation of other people for compensation; or (2) in the living quarters of a house coach or trailer.
It’s crucial to understand that this law applies to all alcoholic containers that have been opened, have a broken seal, or from which some of the contents have been removed. However, the law only applies to vehicles that are currently in operation or located on the right-of-way of a public highway. Given this, the possession or consumption of alcohol inside a vehicle parked in a lot or driveway is perfectly legal. This means that adults over the age of 21 are well within their right to have or share a drink in a car, prior to a concert, tailgate, or other event, provided they do not drive away with partially consumed containers in the car.
Public Intoxication and Drinking Tickets in Indiana
Per Indiana Code 7.1-5-1, when a person is in a clear state of intoxication (caused by alcohol or a controlled substance) in a public place, they can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor in Indiana. However, they must be either endangering their own life or the life of another person; breaching the peace or in imminent danger of breaching the peace; or harassing, annoying, or alarming another person. If convicted of public intoxication, one could face penalties as severe as 180 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
In addition to this law, Indiana Code 7.1-5-1-6 states that when a person is or becomes intoxicated in or upon a vehicle commonly used for the public transportation of passengers; in or upon a common carrier; or in or about a depot, station, airport, ticket office, waiting room or platform, they may be charged with “intoxication upon common carrier.” This offense is considered a Class C infraction in Indiana and could result in a fine of up to $500.
Finally, regardless of intoxication level, Indiana Code 7.1-5-7-7 makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcohol, whether they’re drinking in public in Indiana or in a private setting. If caught, a minor will most likely receive a drinking ticket in Indiana for a Class C misdemeanor. Per the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines, a conviction of this offense could result in up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
It’s important to note that, under some circumstances, a police officer cannot arrest a minor “illegal possession of alcohol by a minor.” Per Indiana Code 7.1-5-1-6.5, these situations include:
- The minor was a victim of a sex offense
- The minor was a witness to a crime
- The minor requested emergency assistance
- The minor acted with another to obtain assistance for someone they believe needed assistance
However, in order to secure this immunity, the minor must cooperate with the officer and the investigation by providing any and all requested information, including their full name.
Further Questions about Drinking in Public in Indiana?
If you have any questions about the legality of drinking in public, are charged with a crime related to alcohol, or have been given a drinking ticket in Indiana, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our attorneys have vast experience defending clients charged alcohol-related offenses and will do everything in their power to have the charges made against you reduced or dismissed altogether.