July 1, 2015

Drunk in Public | California Penal Code 647(f) | PC 647

Under California Penal Code 647, a person is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, if he/she is found in any public placeunder 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 he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others, or by reason of his or her 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.

This lengthy law can be broken down into 4 elements. These are the elements that the prosecution will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a person of this crime. 

  • You must be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substance, and 
  • You must be in a public place (not private property), and
  • Unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others, or
  • Obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way.

Under the Influence

The prosecution will present evidence of your intoxication. Police officer may conduct a breath test by having you blow into a breathalyzer. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer, police officers are trained in recognizing behavior associated with intoxication. The police officer’s report will be admissible as evidence in court. The jury will be ultimate decision maker on how much weight should be assigned to the police officer’s opinion.  

Public Place

You must be found in a public place. The most common public areas where persons are arrested for public intoxication are sidewalks next to bars and nightclubs. If you are drinking on your private property, such as inside your home, or on the front porch of your house, then you should not be convicted of drunk in public charge.  

If I live on campus at a private school and get drunk in my dorm room can I be arrested for public intoxication? NO. Your dorm room would be considered a private residence. You might be violating school’s rules and policies, but you cannot be prosecuted for public intoxication. 

Unable to exercise care

This is one of the hardest elements for the prosecution to prove. This elements is proven by an objective standard, meaning the question is how a reasonable person would be acting under the circumstances. If a person is vomiting, urinating, or starting fights on the public street, then it could be argued that he/she is not acting as a reasonable person. An experienced criminal defense attorney will argue in court that your behavior on the street conformed to the reasonable person standard.  

Obstructs or prevents the free use

The third and fourth elements can be proven in alternative to each other. If the prosecutor is unable to prove that you did not exercise reasonable care, then he/she may argue that your were preventing the free use of the public street/sidewalk. The most common example of this element is when a person passes out on the sidewalk due to intoxication. 

Punishment

The punishment is up to 180 days (6 mo) in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1000.00. Although the punishment does not appear to be as severe as a drug charge, you must still try to retain the best criminal defense attorney possible. A conviction may also have a negative implications on your job or driving history. 

The San Diego police have been cracking down on public intoxication especially in the Gaslamp Quarter (Downtown San Diego). Please be careful when consuming alcohol. Call us for a free criminal defense consultation.  619-357-6677


 

RECENT CASE RESULT:

Charges: 

1. PC 148(a)(1)

Resisting an Officer : Willfully and unlawfully resist, delay and obstruct a public officer/ peace officer in the discharge of his/her duty.  | Sentence Range 1 years | misdemeanor

2. PC 647 (f) 

Public Intoxication : unlawfully in a public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor in such a condition that he was unable to exercise care for his own safety and the safety of others.  | Sentence Range 6 mo | Misdemeanor

Results: Count 1 (Resisting an Officer) Dismissed. Count 2: $500 fine with $100 credit= $400 fine, 3 year summary probation. 

Criminal Defense Attorney: 

Anton Vialtsin

 

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.