It is not an offence to be drunk in a public place.
Under the Public Intoxication Act 1984 (SA), the police may apprehend (take) a person, who they reasonably believe to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol in a public place, into custody and take the person home or to a police station or a sobering up centre if, because of their intoxication, they are unable to care for themselves [s 7(1)].
Such force as is reasonably necessary may be used by police and they have the power to search the person for the purpose of removing any object that may be a danger to the person or others [s 7(2)].
Despite the above this is not an arrest and there are limits on how long a person may be detained for the purpose of sobering up.
A person may not be kept at a police station for longer than 12 hours (and must be released sooner if sober). If the person has failed to sober up in the 12 hour period they must be transferred to a sobering-up centre for admission as a patient. If transferred to a sobering-up centre a person must be discharged either once they have recovered or before the period of 18 hours from the time of apprehension of the person [s 7(4)-(5)].
Whilst in the police station or sobering-up centre the person is taken to be in lawful custody [s 10(1)(a)]. While at either place, the person must be given a reasonable opportunity to contact a lawyer, relative or friend [s 7(8)] and may be discharged to the care of their solicitor, relative or friend if they are willing to properly care for them [s 7(9)].
It is an offence to ill-treat or willfully neglect someone who is detained under this Act for whom they have oversight, care or control.
Maximum penalty: $2000 or 1 year imprisonment [s 11(1)].
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