Public Place requirement in Virginia Criminal Law

Many crimes require that the action occur in a public place. Probably the best known is being drunk in public. The law does not prevent someone from being intoxicated in the comfort of their own home or someone else’s, but if you step out in public, you are opening yourself up for arrest.

But what is a public place? In fact, who owns the property you are standing on has no bearing on whether something is public or private. Under the law for the past 70 years, a public place can include private property that is generally visible to the public. This means that it can include your front yard, your porch, or any part of your property that can be seen by other members of the public without invitation.

Practically, someone can be drunk, or commit another crime required to be in a public place, anywhere they can be seen my members of the public. These other crimes include disorderly conduct, displaying threatening materials (i.e. nooses or cross burning), and discharging a firearm.

If you have been charged with a crime in a public place, an experienced criminal defense attorney can argue that you were not in fact in a public place under the law.

If you are facing one of these crimes, call the criminal defense attorney’s at Winslow & McCurry at 804.423.1382.