Drunk in Public – California Penal Code 647(f)

Drunk in public is described under California Penal Code Section 647(f) – and commonly known as “public intoxication.” It should be noted that simply being drunk in public is not normally considered a PC 647(f) crime.  Rather, most drunk in public cases involves a situation where someone is observed extremely intoxicated and unable to take care of yourself.

Police have the discretion of detaining you for your own safety into “drunk tank.” This type of detention is civil protective custody. If you are placed in civil protective custody, you can be held for 72-hours and prosecutors will not file charges against you.

It should be noted this type of option is only available if police believe you are intoxicated. In situations where they believe you are under the under the influence of a drugs, you could face criminal charges.

It should also be noted that not all local cities within Los Angeles County will place you under a civil protective custody due to the fact they don’t have a drunk tank facility – which means you could face drunk in public criminal charges.

A common example of behavior that might result in PC 647(f) drunk in public charges could include a situation where a highly intoxicated person is laying passed out on the sidewalk, forcing other to walk around them.  It’s not uncommon for anyone arrested for public intoxication to also be charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault on police, or under the influence of a controlled substance.

Penal Code 647(f) drunk in public is a misdemeanor that carries jail time, fine, and a criminal record on your background. Clearly, have a public intoxication conviction of your record could impact your ability to obtain employment.

Therefore, it’s clearly in your best interest to fight drunk in public charges. It may be possible to have your drunk in public charge expunged, if you have successfully completed the terms of your probation.

If you have been charged with public intoxication, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer to review the case and legal options. Don’t settle for a public defender who will seek a quick plea bargain – which is a conviction on your record. We will closely review the details and explain what a prosecutor must prove.

To give readers useful information about drunk in public laws, our California criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Definition of Drunk in Public – Penal Code 647(f)

California Penal Code 647(f) makes it a crime to be under the influence in a public place if you are unable to care for your own safety, or you obstruct or prevent use of a public sidewalk or street. It’s defined as:

Anyone who commits following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct; found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, drugs, controlled substance, or any combination leaving them in a condition where they are unable to exercise care for their own safety or the safety of others, or interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way.

To be convicted of drunk in public, the prosecutor has to prove – beyond reasonable doubt – all the elements of the crime under CALCRIM 2966 that you were:

  • Willfully under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance
  • In a public place while being under the influence
  • Unable to exercise care for your own or safety of others
  • Interfering or obstructing free use of any street, sidewalk

The term “willfully” means it was deliberate. A controlled substance includes any drug regulated by the government, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, or prescription drugs.

A public place is any location accessible to the public, such as a sidewalk, street, restaurant, shopping mall, park, or even a homeless encampment.

Unable to exercise care for your own safety means your condition was so extreme, you had no ability to take care of yourself – meaning police determined you were a risk to public safety. Interfering or obstructing access means your intoxicated condition prevented access to a public way, such as passing out on a sidewalk or at bus stop.

Penalties for Penal Code 647(f) Public Intoxication

If convicted of Penal Code 647(f), drunk in public, it’s a misdemeanor offense and you will be facing the following penalties:

  • Up to 6 months in a county jail
  • A fine up to $1,000
  • Misdemeanor summary probation

It should be noted that if you have been convicted of drunk in public 3 times within one year, you will be facing a minimum sentence of 90 days in county jail – but the judge has the discretion to suspend this requirement if you attend a 60-day alcohol treatment and recovery program.

Fighting Penal Code 647(f) Drunk in Public Charges

While it’s true the actual legal penalties for a drunk in public are not generally severe, but the larger concern is a conviction on your record. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers could use a wide range of defenses against your drunk in public charges in violation of Penal Code 647(f). These include:

Arrest was unlawful

A drunk in public offense must occur in a public place. If you were in a home, apartment, hotel room, etc. – you can’t be guilty of public intoxication.

Insufficient evidence

Recall the elements of the crime above. The prosecutor must be able to prove you were willfully intoxicated to the point that you couldn’t take care of yourself or others around you. We might be able to make an argument they don’t have sufficient evidence for a conviction.

In Los Angeles County, there’ a lot of public pressure placed on police to keep the streets clear of the homeless or people loitering. This often leads overzealous police to arrest people who are not only slightly intoxicated just to get them off the streets.

Alternative Sentencing

Penal Code 647(f), drunk in public, is a relatively minor offense.  It’s often possible to enroll in a diversion program in order to complete an alternative sentence, such as performing community service or Alcoholics Anonymous classes, and the charges will be dismissed.

If you were arrested for PC 647(f) drunk in public – the most important consideration is to keep a criminal conviction off your record.

Contact our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to review the details of your case and legal options. If you have a public intoxication conviction on your criminal record, it could impact your future opportunities.

Cron, Israels & Stark is located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Call (424) 372-3112 for a free consultation.