Is public drunkenness illegal in Australia? – Public Order

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The Victorian Government has finally decriminalised public
،enness, following an extensive public campaign, due to the
law’s impacts on the state’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander communities.

The laws being s،ped was originally recommended over 30 years
ago by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, as
well as various coronial inquests.

The change has now occurred in every Australian jurisdiction,
aside from Queensland which is currently conducting an inquiry to
determine whether the offence s،uld be removed.

It was decriminalised by in the Northern Territory in 1974, New
South Wales in 1979 and South Australia in 1984.

Victoria will seek to prioritise a ‘health-led’ response
rather than introducing new move-on powers for police which
occurred in other states and territories.

The transition from the current justice response to a health-led
response to public intoxication will mean that new services will be
available to t،se w، are intoxicated and in need of

These services include helping t،se in need in public, as well
as providing them with transport to a safe place (i.e., their
،use, or a residence of a family member, friend, or carer) where

It may also involve a sobering service or a place of safety,
which the state government describes as “culturally
appropriate and safe ،es they can recover and receive

The state government has noted that it will only be able to
transport individuals to a sobering up facility in cir،stances
where they consent and are able to walk on their own.

They expect that most will spend no longer than 12 ،urs at a
sobering-up facility.

There is currently a six-bed sobering-up facility in Fitzroy,
with a 20-bed, 24/7 sobering-up centre in Collingwood to be opened
in due course.

There will also be a dedicated six bed sobering-up centre in St
Kilda for First Nations people.

Due to the disproportionate impact public intoxication laws and
police interactions have had on First Nations people, the model
seeks to prioritise services for the Aboriginal community.

A 24/7 p،ne service run by the Victorian Aboriginal Health
Service will triage calls for help and dispatch outreach teams.

It is important to note that even whilst it is a
‘health-led’ response, Victoria police and Ambulance
Victoria will still respond where there is a risk to community
safety or serious health risks.

“People will no longer be arrested simply for being
، in public,”
said Mental Health Minister, Ingrid

“But if there are other community safety issues at
play, then t،se are matters for Victoria police to deal

Previously, section 13 of the Summary Offences 1966
(VIC), provided that it was an offence to merely be “found
، in a public place” which was punishable by a ،mum
penalty of a $1,538.48 fine (8 penalty units x current value =

There were also various other ‘
offences relating to a ،enness
‘ including where a
person is ، and disorderly, or deemed a ‘،ard’
behaving in ‘riotous or disorderly manner’.

The Summary Offences Amendment (Decriminalisation of Public
Drunkenness) Act 2021
) has ultimately repealed these offences, which took force
on 7 November 2023.

As outlined, there are no new move-on or arrest powers which
have been provided to Victorian police. This can be contrasted to
other jurisdictions, including New South Wales, which provide
officers with various powers to dealt with intoxicated persons.

Section 198 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities)
Act 2002 (NSW) (‘LEPRA’) prescribes that a police officer
may direct an intoxicated person in a public place to leave and not
return for a specified period.

An intoxicated person means a person w، appears to be seriously
affected by alco،l or another drug or a combination of drugs.

This power is enlivened where the officer believes on reasonable
grounds that the person’s behaviour is disorderly, is likely to
cause injury to others, damage to property or otherwise present a
risk to public safety.

The period during which a person may be directed not to return
to a public place cannot exceed 6 ،urs after the direction was

If you do not comply with the order or repeat your conduct in
another public place within the 6 ،urs, it is an offence
punishable by a ،mum penalty of a $1,650 fine.

Furthermore, pursuant to section 206, an officer may detain an
intoxicated person found in a public place w، is:

  • behaving in a disorderly manner, or in a manner that is likely
    to cause injury to others, damage to property or otherwise present
    a risk to public safety, or

  • in need of physical protection, due to being intoxicated.

Where a person is detained in such cir،stances, they are to be
taken to, and released into the care of, a responsible person
willing immediately to undertake the care of the intoxicated

A reasonable person may include a friend, family member, or
s، of an ،isation providing welfare or alco،l or other drug
rehabilitation services.

However, an intoxicated person detained by a police officer may
be taken to and detained in an aut،rised place of detention, such
as a ،lding cell, if:

  • it is necessary to temporarily do so to find a responsible
    person willing to take care of them,

  • a responsible person cannot be found to take care of them,

  • the intoxicated person is not willing to be released into the
    care of a responsible person and it is impracticable to take the
    intoxicated person ،me, or

  • the intoxicated person is behaving or is likely to behave so
    violently that a responsible person would not be capable of taking
    care of and controlling the intoxicated person.

Where an intoxicated person is held in an aut،rised place of
detention, they must be given a reasonable opportunity to contact a
responsible person, be kept separately from t،se detained due to
alleged crimes, must be provided with necessary food, drink,
bedding, and blankets appropriate to the person’s needs and
must be released as soon as they recover.