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Drinking in public: What can happen if you imbibe outside

All across Canada, people are looking for ways to spend time with friends and family outside. Between the nice weather and social distancing guidelines in the midst of the current health crisis, being outside can be the best place for people to be right now.

However, if your outdoor activities involve drinking alcohol, you could wind up facing some serious consequences. 

Public drinking laws in Ontario

In most parts of Canada, it is unlawful to drink alcohol in a public space, including parks. In Ottawa, you must get an alcohol permit for a special event in order to lawfully serve, sell or drink in a public park.

Any person caught drinking in public can be fined $100 or more, depending on whether other offences are involved.

Public intoxication is also illegal. While having a beer in the park may not draw the attention of law enforcement, being drunk and loud, combative or inappropriate can – and often does. Being intoxicated in public and creating a disturbance are summary conviction offences that can result in six months imprisonment and up to $5,000 in fines.

Could these rules be changing?

The public drinking laws and penalties in Ontario can seem unnecessarily harsh. In fact, there are currently advocates hoping provinces across Canada will relax public drinking restrictions in order to keep people from overcrowding indoor bars and restaurants. 

However, unless and until that happens, know that drinking in public can result in fines and possible imprisonment.

Challenging public drinking accusations

It may seem like paying a fine and moving on is the only way to deal with public drinking or intoxication charges, but that is not true. There are options to defend yourself and avoid any unnecessary penalties. Understanding this can be especially crucial for people facing charges as a minor, people who have previous offences, and those who believe the charges are unfair.  

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Drinking in public: What can happen if you imbibe outside | Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter