The beach communities of Southern California are referred to by many as “partying” destinations. City officials, eager to enforce public intoxication laws, often target persons appearing to be publicly intoxicated for apprehension and prosecution. Police use the drunk in public “catch all” offense to invoke drunk and disorderly charges in order to arrest persons they consider either undesirable or troublemakers. Many times they will arrest somebody for this if the person doesn’t cooperate with their orders.
California Penal Code 647(f) PC is known as the “drunk in public” or “public intoxication” law. In spite of what the name suggests, being drunk in any public place isn’t a crime and doesn’t justify criminal charges of “drunk in public” under this code. In order to successfully prosecute for this, police must prove the defendant was not only “willfully intoxicated” but also that they were unable to exercise care for themselves or others, or that they were obstructing the public in some way.
The California “Drunk in Public” law also requires that the disorderly conduct occurred in a “public place.” This is a broadly defined term that includes parked cars on the street, front yards, and common areas in and around apartment buildings. Locations such as hotel rooms, backyards, and private homes are considered private and not public places.
In order to prove the individual was so intoxicated that they were a safety risk to themselves, a safety risk to others, or obstructing the public, the prosecution must show that the person obstructed, interfered with, or prevented others from being able to use streets, sidewalks, or any other designated “public ways.”
Appearing to be intoxicated is not enough to support a “drunk in public” conviction under California Penal Code 647(f). The police may therefore administer field sobriety tests to prove the person arrested was intoxicated. Although these tests may prove the person was intoxicated, it is often more difficult to prove the other necessary elements required for a conviction.
Just being “drunk in public” is one thing, but if they can’t prove the other elements, then you are not guilty of this offense.
The shortcomings in this law can be emphasized by an experienced criminal defense attorney such as Sevens Legal, APC, to secure dismissal or another favorable disposition for a “drunk in public” charge. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.