A Florida woman did not believe that her verbal assaults were getting the appropriate response from another woman that was walking by on the street, so the Florida woman bumped it up a notch and threw a pair of underwear at the other woman. Police were summoned. Surprise, surprise, alcohol appears to have been involved. It would probably be more accurate to say that alcohol was the cause of the drunken, belligerent behavior.
Public Drunkenness & Disorderly Conduct
Aside from the throwing of panties, the scenario above is something that happens relatively routinely in State College. After Penn State students, typically men, have a bit too much to drink, they tend to become a bit louder, more belligerent, and have no problem arguing with other people on the street. In such situations, the people are often charged with non-traffic summary offenses like Public Drunkenness and Disorderly Conduct. A charge of Public Drunkenness under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5505 prohibits a person from being in any "public place manifestly under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance... to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or annoy persons in his vicinity." To summarize, the person must be under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the extent that the person annoys nearby people. The charge of Disorderly Conduct under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5503 prohibits a person from causing a public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof by making unreasonable noise or by using obscene language or gestures.
Proof of Intoxication in Alcohol Related Charges
In this case, the woman could try to argue that she deserves the Disorderly Conduct for yelling in public, but she could try to argue that she is not guilty of the Public Drunkenness charge by claiming that her bad behavior was not a result of her being manifestly under the influence of alcohol. While she can make that argument, I do not believe that it would be successful. Many people mistakenly believe that any alcohol related charge, such as Underage Drinking or Public Drunkenness, requires scientific proof of intoxication. I have seen many Penn State students represent themselves at summary trials and seek a not guilty verdict in a State College Underage Drinking case by arguing that there was insufficient evidence because no scientific alcohol testing was conducted. People mistakenly believe that the police must administer field sobriety tests, a breath test, or even a blood test in order to prove that a person was drunk. That simply is not the case.
The police can prove intoxication via circumstantial evidence. This means that the officer can testify the person had difficulty standing, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol emanating from his or her breath to prove intoxication. Basically, the officer argues that "if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a duck." If the person is too drunk to walk and stand, then they are manifestly under the influence of alcohol. In this particular case, the police allege that the woman had difficulty standing, emanated a strong odor of alcohol, and acted belligerently. Based upon my experience as a criminal defense lawyer in Central Pennsylvania, I believe that a district judge in this area would readily find the woman guilty of both Disorderly Conduct and Public Drunkenness.