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Drinking in Public: knowing the law

With summer in full swing, there are plenty of reasons to come to Detroit: enjoying the festivals, going to a ball game, or even just to spend time on Belle Isle. One of the things that goes hand in hand with spending time outdoors is having drinks, and while it seems perfectly normal, the fact of the matter is that you need to be very careful how and when you actually do this.

Most people are not aware of this, but it’s illegal to drink alcohol anywhere on public property in Detroit. This includes places such as Belle Isle, Hart Plaza, the sidewalk outside of bars, and even at certain tailgates. It’s true to say that most people are not usually charged with open intox or drinking in public, which is why most people are unaware of the statute. The pertinent part states:

Sec. 38-5-1. – Disorderly conduct
“…Any person who shall consume alcoholic beverages on any street or sidewalk…shall be guilty of a misdemeanor”

While obviously the best way to avoid being charged with open intoxicants is to simply not do it, there are steps that you can take to attempt to minimize the possibility of being charged.

1) Know where private property stops.
-Always avoid drinking on the sidewalks: if you are at a tailgate, you need to make sure that you don’t leave the blacktop portion of the parking lot, because then officers have the excuse they need to ticket you. The same thing is true for bars: if you are going outside, don’t take your drink with you unless you want to invite trouble.

2) Know your limits, and know the law
-As a general rule, you will not be a target of police officers if you are politely minding your own business: loud and belligerent drinking in public is bad for everyone, so you will be the first to go if you seem to be enjoying yourself too much. At the same time, a clear understanding of rule #1 will go far in protecting you and your friends on rule #2.

3) Be aware of the context you are in
-If it is a normal Saturday night outside a bar in downtown Detroit or midtown, then you should have very little reason to worry about receiving a ticket. However, if it’s Opening Day downtown, be aware that officers are looking for easy targets, and will go out of their way to find them if you are not careful. Big events lead to more scrutiny, not less.

If you are able to follow these rule and for some reason do receive a ticket, you have put yourself in very good shape to beat it down the road.