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Examining Public Drunkenness Charges in New Mexico


Defense Attorney Fighting for those Charged with Public Intoxication in New Mexico

man passed out on benchSurprisingly, New Mexico is one of the few states not to have a law against being drunk in public. However, that does not mean that you cannot be arrested for being publicly intoxicated. In fact, some laws allow police to take you into protective custody. If you commit a crime while intoxicated, you can also be convicted.

The State Law on Public Drunkenness/Intoxication

Public intoxication is not a crime in New Mexico. However, the state recognizes the need to treat, instead of prosecute, those who are drunk in public. Driving and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, however, is a crime. You also should not commit crimes while intoxicated. The law does not recognize that intoxication is a defense to having committed a crime.

If you commit crimes while in protective custody, you could face criminal charges. For example, say you are taken to the hospital for treatment by the police. You strike a healthcare worker and are combative. You also strike the officer. In this case, you might be arrested and convicted of assaulting a police officer and battery of a healthcare worker.

What Does Protective Custody Mean and What Rights Do I Have?

If you are drunk in public, the police may put you in protective custody or send you to a treatment facility. Police use their discretion under the statute, and they can take you into protective custody if:

  • You are disorderly;
  • You cannot care for yourself;
  • Alcohol or drugs incapacitate you;
  • You could inflict serious injury on yourself or others;
  • You have threatened to cause injury or have caused injury to yourself; or
  • You inflicted damage or are a threat to public property and private property.

If any one of these circumstances applies, the officer can place you in protective custody. But, protective custody does not mean that you are under arrest. Instead, the police must seek a treatment facility. Then, the doctor must make a written statement before you can be placed in treatment, and you are given a copy of the request. You have the right to ask for a defense lawyer, even in protective custody. The law reserves the right to hold you for 72 hours or until your blood alcohol concentration is back to 0 percent, pursuant to the statute.

Should I Contact an Attorney if I’m in Protective Custody?

If you are held in protective custody but do not feel that you were a threat, you should speak with a public intoxication defense attorney. If you are charged with a crime that involves alcohol or if you were ticketed for violating a public intoxication rule for a local government, you have rights.

It is in your best interest any time you are detained by police, whether arrested or not, to contact a criminal defense attorney. Speak with a defense attorney now at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices by calling 505-375-4671 or asking us a question online.