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Drunk in Public: Is It a Crime in Arizona?

With previous surveys ranking some Arizona cities the drunkest in the nation, you would think there would be city and local laws against public drunkenness. To the surprise of many Arizona residents and even some municipalities, you'd be wrong.

Case in point: A Scottsdale ordinance allowing police to arrest rowdy drunk people in public was thrown out because of a 1974 state law barring Arizona cities and towns from enforcing their own drunken-behavior laws, reports The Arizona Republic.

Although Scottsdale police officers can no longer arrest or cite people who are very drunk in public, officers can still use disorderly-conduct and other laws to cite and arrest drunks if they are a nuisance, according to Scottsdale police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark.

"We're still concerned about the intoxicated people in the neighborhood," Clark told The Republic. "We'll still respond."

Under Arizona state law, a person can be charged with disorderly conduct if he or she engages in fighting, violent or seriously disruptive behavior. Disorderly conduct is typically a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or fines.

Residents, city officials and authorities are still concerned that they cannot adopt and enforce their own laws on public intoxication, however.

It is also unknown how other cities will take the judge's ruling. Phoenix reportedly has a drunk-and-disorderly ordinance, which makes it a misdemeanor to be in a drunk or disorderly condition in a public place, street, alley or sidewalk, according to The Republic.

Given the state of confusion surrounding public intoxication laws and ordinances, you should consider contacting an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney or public defender if you have been arrested for being drunk in public. He or she can inform you of the most recent updates to state and local laws as well as any potential legal defenses you may have.

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