Public Intoxication: Easy Arrest, Tough Conviction
What is a Public Intoxication?
In the state of California, it is not a crime to simply be drunk in public. Penal Code section 647(f) makes it a crime to be in such a state of intoxication, either because of drugs or alcohol, that you are unable to care for yourself or you pose a danger to yourself or others.
Unfortunately, law enforcement officers use this as a catchall provision to arrest anyone who is even slightly intoxicated.
Also, the crime of public intoxication does not require you to have any specific blood alcohol concentration, like in the context of DUI. So officers routinely conduct public intoxication arrests with having to administer a breath alcohol test or any field sobriety tests.
What’s the worst that could happen?
A violation of Penal Code section 647(f) is punishable by up to six months in county jail, summary probation, and a thousand dollar fine.
How can I defend against this charge?
As stated above, to be guilty of a violation of Penal Code section 647(f), you must be “unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others,” or by virtue of intoxication you “interfere with or obstruct or prevent the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way”
This is a very high burden, and its up to the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were so intoxicated you could not care for your own safety or the safety of others (or that you obstructed a sidewalk). Common defenses are that the law enforcement officer did not observe the arrestee long enough to make that determination, that the officer did not have a rational basis to reach that conclusion and was just acting on assumption or prejudice, and that the officer did not take any steps to figure out the actual level of intoxication of the arrestee (like getting a breath alcohol sample or having the arrestee perform field sobriety tests.) Essentially, as long as you weren’t found asleep on a sidewalk, you may be able to prevail against this prosecution at trial.
What should I do if I am charged with Public Intoxication?
You should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at Manshoory Law Group, APC to assist you in analyzing the specific facts of your case, preparing and presenting defenses before and during trial, and making sure you understand your rights and helping you enforce them. The risks of a Public Intoxication conviction are too great to go-it alone. Call now for a free consultation (877) 977-7750.