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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
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Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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I was charged with Drunk in Public Section 17-7 of the Arlington,

Customer Question

I was charged with Drunk in Public Section 17-7 of the Arlington, County, VA code after asking a police officer for his name and badge number after he assaulted me and threatened to charge me with obstruction of justice. I have never been arrested before, and when I was arrested, I was not actually told that I was under arrest or what I was being charged for. I was just dropped off at the detention center, and had to spend 9 hours there without any food or contact beyond my fingerprint being taken, my photo taken, etc. I did not find out until 9AM the next morning what I was actually charged with, and when I first appeared before the magistrate at 1230AM, I was not given any opportunity to speak. I was never breathalized, or determined to be drunk/under the influence. I was simply standing on a public street outside of a mutual friends house speaking to a police officer. Do I have a case for wrongful arrest/a finding of not guilty on this charge? I am in the Marine Corps Reserve and hold a security clearance, and want this to not affect me, as I am innocent and was not in anyway drunk. The police officer was just offended that I asked for his name/badge number and refused to provide it to me before arresting me.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 3 years ago.
Hello Jacustomer,

You are likely going to have to fight this case. While the lack of a breathalyzer test is in your favor, you can expect that should you try this case, the officer will state that you showed all the indicia of being intoxicated in public. The case will come down to his credibilty. If the trier of fact believes the officer beyond a reasonable doubt as to his ability to perceive and identify the signs of your intoxication, you can be convicted.

As for the civil side of things, police are immune from suit or prosecution if they are acting in the scope of their employment, absent negligence or misconduct. If you are acquitted of these charges, or if the case gets dismissed on its merits, then if you sustained damages, you would potentially have a civil suit. If you take a plea of any sort to get done with the case, or if you should lose after trial, you would no longer be able to sue, as the conviction would make the false arrest true, by definition.

Meanwhile, sending the report to internal affairs cannot hurt you unless you conceded in it that you'd had anything to drink earlier, in which case that would constitute an admission that could be used against you. It can also, however, bring on an investigation into the officer, which is what you would want. Similarly, you can file a report against the officer with the VA Attorney General's Office. Again, however, be careful not to say anything that can possibly be incriminating. In fact, as you should be looking for a criminal lawyer as soon as possible, you may want to show him what you plan on saying in your complaint before you lodge it.

Here is the relevant provision of Section 17 - 7 with which you have been charged:

"It shall be unlawful for any person to be drunk or profanely to curse or swear in any public place in the County."

A first offense is punishable by no more than $100 fine.

Even though this has a civil penalty only and is a violation rather than a crime if you wish to fight the charges and make sure it can't appear to hurt you on a background check, and to protect your right to sue as well, make sure you have a lawyer.
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 17391
Experience: Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
Zoey_ JD and 6 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you Fran.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 3 years ago.
And thank you!

Good luck on the court date.

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Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.