In Massachusetts, almost all cities and towns have ordinances (local laws) against drinking in public or drunk and disorderly conduct. These kinds of public intoxication laws are usually charged as non-criminal infractions or summary offenses when violated. Local police have the authority to arrest you, without a warrant, for a suspected violation of public drinking.
However, under Mass General Laws, you can be charged with disorderly conduct and/or disturbance of the peace, which, for a second offense will be charged as a misdemeanor.
If convicted on a 2nd or subsequent disorderly conduct offense, the penalty is up to 6 months in a house of corrections, or a fine of up to $200, or both jail and fine.
It’s common for disorderly conduct charges to be added on as a separate offense along with, for example, an assault charge.
Public Drinking & Open Container Laws
Most cities and towns have laws against possessing opened alcohol in public ways and places. In Gloucester, for instance, it’s against the law to drink in public so the ordinance prohibits drinking from an alcoholic beverage, or possessing an open container of alcohol in public.
In Cambridge, the ordinance is limited to drinking alcohol in public places and the penalty for a violation is not more than a $50 fine.
The town of Franklin prohibits drinking alcohol or possessing open containers of alcohol in public, and the penalty if found in violation is $300. Under state law, $300 is the maximum fine any city or town can impose for non-criminal violations such as public drinking.
Typically, you can enclose your payment for the fine in the citation you received and mail it to the clerk’s office to dispose of the matter.
Also, for those who may be worried about their immigration adjustment and status, don’t. A charge or violation for public intoxication is not a crime of moral turpitude.
Feel free to contact me if you are facing a second or higher disorderly conduct offense. To avoid a conviction, you’ll need to hire a criminal defense attorney who has ample experience defending these kinds of cases before the court in which you’ll appear.