Let's say an after-work happy hour or a Sunday Funday got a little out of hand. Could you be arrested for public intoxication in California? The answer is maybe.
Many people mistakenly believe that it is illegal to be drunk in a public space. In California, this is not always the case. There are penalties for public intoxication when certain criteria are met, such as when the level of inebriation impedes on a person’s safety or that of others, or when it impedes on others’ enjoyment or use of a public space.
A Drunk in Public charge is a misdemeanor offense that can carry a maximum fine of $1000, up to six months in county jail and probation. The consequences can seriously limit your job or education prospects in the future. Instead of sitting back, fight your charges with the help of an experienced Drunk in Public criminal defense attorney.
What is the Definition of Drunk in Public in California?
According to California Penal Code 647(f), Drunk in Public is defined as:
“Who is found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, controlled substance, or toluene, in a condition that they are unable to exercise care for their own safety or the safety of others, or by reason of being under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, or toluene, interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way.”
What Must the Prosecutor Prove?
In order for someone to be convicted of public intoxication, the prosecutor has the burden of proving these specific items:
The defendant was willfully under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
This means that the prosecutor must show that the defendant purposely ingested intoxicating substances such as drugs or alcohol. If the defendant was drugged or unknowingly ingested an intoxicating substance, there was no willful ingestion and therefore the charge does not apply.
The defendant was in fact in a public place while under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
The state of California defines public place as “a place that is open and accessible to anyone who wishes to go there.” Some examples of public places can include parks, retail establishments, parking lots, streets and sidewalks. The prosecution must show that the defendant was drunk or intoxicated in a place that could legally be accessed by members of the public.
The defendant was unable to maintain their own safety or that of others.
The prosecutor must also prove that the defendant was unable to exercise care for their own safety and that of others. Under the law, this means that the defendant was a safety risk because their intoxication was to such a degree that they could no longer make safe decisions.
The defendant was obstructing others’ use of a public space.
The prosecutor must find that the defendant was impacting the ability of the public to enjoy the use of that same public space. For example, they must show that the defendant was blocking public use of the sidewalk or creating a hazard for drivers in the roadway.
Possible Defenses Against Drunk in Public Charges
As a misdemeanor charge, public intoxication is not something a defendant should ignore. The charges come with penalties that can stain your permanent record and impact employment, education and rental opportunities in the future. If you have been charged with Drunk in Public in the state of California, it is in your best interest to secure the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can work with you to understand the facts of your case and help you present the strongest defense possible.
Some common defenses for Drunk in Public charges include:
- The intoxication did not occur in a public place.
- The arresting officer did not take measures to accurately determine the level of intoxication.
- The intoxication was not willful.
- The officers violated your constitutional rights.
What You Should Do If You Are Facing California Public Intoxication Charges
A competent criminal defense attorney can help you avoid charges on your permanent record and misdemeanor penalties for a Drunk in Public offense. Attorney Joni Eisenstein can help you fight your charges and get the best outcome possible for your case.
Contact the Law Office of Joni Eisenstein today to schedule your free consultation with our California public intoxication criminal defense attorney.