Are you facing a Pedestrian Under the Influence charge? Had you never heard of Pedestrian Under the Influence (PUI) until now? You are not alone. PUI charges are rare and many people are not aware that walking along a road while intoxicated can be a crime. You may have thought you were doing the right thing by choosing to walk home after a night of drinking instead of getting behind the wheel of a car.
Richard Lawson understands that everyone makes mistakes. He has been defending people accused of alcohol or drug-related offenses in Georgia for 20 years. He is the most reviewed DUI attorney in Georgia on AVVO.
What is a PUI?
Under the laws of Georgia, a PUI violation is described as follows:
“A person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug to a degree which renders him a hazard shall not walk or be upon any roadway or the shoulder of any roadway. Violation of this Code section is a misdemeanor and is punishable upon conviction by a fine not to exceed $500.00.”
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-95 (2017)
What does it mean to be a “hazard”?
In Georgia, a person is not supposed to stand or walk in the roadway if there is a sidewalk and a vehicle is within 1,000 feet unless the sidewalk poses an imminent danger. If there are no sidewalks, pedestrians are supposed to walk as close to the edge of the roadway or as far in the shoulder as possible. However, it is largely up to the discretion of an officer to decide if a pedestrian is a hazard.
Evidence of Intoxication
The standards for proving that someone was intoxicated to the point of being a hazard are much lower in a PUI case than a DUI case. During a DUI investigation, an officer will usually put the suspect through a standard set of field sobriety tests and will test a sample of bodily fluid to determine the suspect's blood alcohol level.
Before issuing a PUI charge, an officer only needs to rely on obvious signs of intoxication he or she has been trained to notice, such as bloodshot eyes, the odor of alcohol on breath, muscle tremors, confusion, mood swings, stumbling, or slurred speech. If you are approached by an officer, it is important to remain calm to avoid giving the impression that you are intoxicated to the point of being a hazard. You do not need to answer questions about your drug or alcohol consumption.
Penalties for a PUI Conviction in Georgia
A PUI conviction comes with a $500 fine and a conviction on your criminal record. A misdemeanor conviction cannot be expunged from your record in Georgia. That is why it is important to obtain competent, experienced counsel. Richard Lawson is a former prosecutor and knows how to negotiate with the prosecutor's office to seek alternatives to a conviction that will stay on your record.
Other Factors Often Involved in a PUI Case
Your case is unique and The Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson will give you the individual attention you deserve. Pedestrian Under the Influence charges are often accompanied by other charges and complications. Some of these are discussed below.
Often times the arresting officer interacts with a pedestrian because of suspicion of another possible crime in progress before the officer decides to charge the person with a PUI. A person often faces multiple charges in addition to a PUI.
In June of 2017, a Chatsworth man and his mother were both charged with being pedestrians under the influence in relation to a confrontation with police. Police officers had been attempting to place the man's mother under arrest for disturbing the public peace when the son grabbed an officer from behind. The son, who was 20, was also charged with willful obstruction of law enforcement officers (a felony), simple battery against a police officer, and possession of alcohol by a minor. His mother was also charged with willful obstruction of law enforcement and disorderly conduct.
Depending on the circumstances of each individual case, a prosecutor may be willing to drop more serious charges in exchange for a guilty plea on a less serious charge, or vice versa.
A Public Intoxication charge is given when a person in a public space or on someone else's private property is “boisterousness, by indecent condition or act, or by vulgar, profane, loud, or unbecoming language.” O.C.G.A. § 16-11-41(a).
District Attorney Bert Poston explains the distinction between a PUI and Public Intoxication: “So you could be guilty of both if you are drunk and boisterous in the road, or you could be just drunk in the road, but not boisterous, or you could be drunk and boisterous in a public place, just not a road.”
Confused? So are many officers. Sometimes a person will be given a PUI charge when not near a road because the citing officer has confused the two charges. This could be one avenue to have a PUI charge dismissed.
Minor-in-Possession of Alcohol
A person under the age of 21, like the Chatsworth man above, could also face a Minor In Possession of Alcohol charge which could carry a $300 fine and up to 6 months in jail, in addition to a driver's license suspension.
Minor in Possession of Alcohol, Public Intoxication, and Pedestrian Under the Influence are sometimes confused. A person could be charged with one, two, or all three of these offenses.
Yes, it seems very odd that there could be victims in a PUI case. However, a PUI charge often arises after a pedestrian has allegedly caused a vehicle accident because of the pedestrian's hazardous behavior. A pedestrian may even be hit by a car only to learn that, in addition to his or her injuries, the pedestrian is being slapped with a PUI charge and considered at fault for the accident.
In October 2012, a woman in Columbus was charged with Pedestrian Under the Influence after being struck by the passenger-side mirror of a passing car. The woman had been walking home in the dark after drinking. She had chosen to walk in the street to avoid a chance encounter with a snake in the grass. The driver failed to see the woman in time, as the road was not well lit. The driver was not charged.
In a case such as this, the prosecutor may ask that any guilty plea include restitution to the driver for the damage to their vehicle. At the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson, a lawyer can ensure the necessary legal actions are taken to protect your rights.
Defense Against a Pedestrian Under the Influence Charge in Georgia
At first glance, the idea of a PUI charge might make some people laugh but the consequences can be serious for your criminal record. Atlanta DUI Lawyer Richard S. Lawson is dedicated to defending people against drug and alcohol-related charges. Contact Us today for a free consultation.