Drunk in Public Charges in Los Angeles

Is it a crime to be drunk in public?

According to California Penal Code 647(f), anyone who is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and "unable to exercise care for his or her 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," can be arrested and charged with public intoxication. The onus is, therefore, on the prosecution to prove that the person was acting as a public nuisance or hazard, and not just that they were intoxicated in a public place. Being moderately intoxicated in public is not, in and of itself, a crime in the state of California.

There are cases where law enforcement will arrest someone for being drunk in public when, in fact, that person can actually care for his or her safety or the safety of others. There are cases where the police will arrest a person for being drunk in public, without grounds, in order to search the person for illegal weapons or other illicit items. It takes a competent defense lawyer to compile and analyze all of the facts involved. If you have been arrested for being drunk in public in Los Angeles, you are urged to contact a criminal defense attorney at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners immediately.

The Penalties for Public Intoxication in California

Public intoxication is a misdemeanor in the state of California. If you are convicted, you could face up to six months in county jail, probation, and a fine of $1,000. Although the judge may only sentence you to probation for a first-time offense, it is important to remember that a "drunk in public" conviction will still appear on your criminal record—where it can be seen by prospective employers. For this reason, you should take these charges seriously. When you contact our firm at the outset of your case, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges reduced or even dropped.

Legal Defenses to a Drunk in Public Charge

In order to convict you of a public intoxication charge, the prosecution must do more than prove that you were drunk in a public place. It is not necessarily a crime to be "buzzed" or moderately intoxicated in a public area; it only becomes a criminal offense if you are so drunk that you cannot care for your own personal safety or the safety of others and/or you prevent others from using public streets or sidewalks.

Legal defenses to a drunk in public conviction may include:

  • You were not actually located in a public place
  • You were not too intoxicated to care for yourself
  • Your rights were violated by the arresting officer(s)
  • You were not "willfully" under the influence
  • You were not obstructing the use of a public way

Under California Penal Code 647(f), a "public place" is defined as any area outside of a home in which a stranger is free to walk; however state courts have decided that less obvious places also qualify as public areas. Just a few of these places include cars that are parked on a public street, shared hallways in an apartment complex and the areas in front of someone else's house (i.e. their driveway, front lawn and porch).

Get the Help You Need – Call Now for a Free Consultation

At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, we have over 70 years of combined experience successfully defending clients who have been charged with being drunk in public. As seasoned litigators, we possess the skill and track record you need to feel confident about the outcome of your case. Public intoxication cases can be very tricky, and we understand how to aggressively and thoroughly explore the different legal angles necessary to bring about favorable outcomes for our clients. One of the attorneys at our firm can discuss solutions with you, custom-fit for your circumstances.

Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at the firm if you face drunk in public charges and need competent legal defense.