In California, a person can commit the crime of public intoxication in several ways. While public intoxication may be punishable by a short jail time, the conviction remains a permanent record on one’s file and should be taken seriously. According to California legal statutes, employers have the right to terminate employees on the basis of holding a criminal record.
In a public intoxication case, a defender can avoid conviction by presenting the defenses available under the law. To understand the implications of public intoxication, we’ll review the premise of the California penal code 647 (f).
What Is Public Intoxication?
According to Penal Code 647 f PC, public intoxication is when a person is under the influence of alcohol, drug, or any other controlled substance in public to the degree that the person poses a danger to themselves or others.
In California, public intoxication is a misdemeanor offense punishable under criminal law for a maximum of 6 months. A judge may impose a fine of up to $1,000, issue probation or community service to the accused instead of a jail term or fine.
According to statute PC 647 f, a person is guilty of public intoxication if a police officer finds them in a public area under the influence of:
- Controlled substances
If you’re under the influence of any of the above substances in such a way that you cannot care for your safety and that of others or you interfere with the free use of any street, sidewalk, or public roads, a police officer will arrest you.
Instances of public intoxication include:
- Grabbing a stool and throw it across the bar because you’re intoxicated
- Drinking too much on a train and then harassing others onboard the train
- Passing out on a sidewalk, forcing people walking to step over you because you’re under influence
Prohibitions for Public Intoxication
It’s a crime to be drunk in public in the state of California. However, a prosecutor has the duty to prove three facts before the judge can reach a conviction. The district attorney must prove that:
- The offender’s actions were endangering him or her and those around them.
- The accused was intentionally under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance.
- The offense happened in public.
The law targets to protect:
- The accused from harming themselves
- Others in public from the potential threat posed by the intoxicated individual
However, the question of whether you were unable to exercise your safety and the safety of others is subject to facts. A jury or a judge considers all facts and circumstances of every case to develop a verdict.
Questions that often arise under public intoxication cases are on:
- The meaning of willful intoxication: One must voluntarily ingest drugs or alcohol to commit a public intoxication offense. If a person was intoxicated accidentally or someone forced them, you cannot be guilty of public intoxication.
- The meaning of public place: The offense must happen in an open place to which the public or substantial group of people has access. The California Court has ruled out some less obvious places like a car parked on a public street, a common hallway in an apartment building, and an area in front of someone’s house as public places.
What Are the Public Intoxication Penalties in California?
Violating the 647f PC is a misdemeanor offense under California state law. If found guilty, the crime is punishable by:
- County jail imprisonment for up to six months
- A maximum fine not exceeding $1000
In some cases, a judge may prosecute a defendant with misdemeanor or summary probation instead of a jail term. Alternatively, the judge can issue probation or grant community service instead of a jail term or fine.
What Are the Possible Defenses for Public Intoxication?
A lawyer can challenge public intoxication accusations by raising a legal defense. A good defense can reduce or dismiss drunk-in-public charges.
Three common defenses for public intoxication is to prove to California courts that the offender was:
- Not in a public place: The offender can get a DUI attorney to show the court that even though the defendant was intoxicated, they were not in a place open to people and the police have no grounds to make the arrest.
- Involuntarily intoxicated: The accused’s lawyer can prove that the defendant got intoxicated without knowing or someone forced or tricked them into consuming an intoxicating substance.
- The accused didn’t cause interference or obstruction: Although intoxicated, the defender can prove that they didn’t interfere with a public way, street, or sidewalk, so the police officers arguably had no grounds to make an arrest.
If a public intoxication case goes to trial, government lawyers have the task of proving the offender is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
How Serious Is a Drunk in Public Conviction?
Public intoxication can have serious negative effects on a defendant’s life, even though it’s a misdemeanor. A conviction can cause:
- Job loss
- Difficulty getting employment due to background searches
- Lease rejection from potential landlords
- Rejection of college and university applications
- Denial of a professional license
- Losing out on scholarship opportunity
More importantly, a public intoxication conviction comes with a social stigma, making people believe that the accused is irresponsible or an alcoholic. It’s essential for anyone charged with public intoxication to fight the charge and get the matter expunged as soon as possible.
Can a Person Get an Expungement after a Penal Code 647f Conviction?
Anyone convicted under Penal Code 647f can try to expunge their records. The California Penal Code 1203.4 states that an expungement erases or removes records of a criminal conviction completely.
The rule authorizes an expungement for public intoxication as long as the applicant:
- Successfully complete probation
- Isn’t currently charged with a criminal offense, serving a sentence for a criminal offense, or on probation for a criminal offense
Once a defendant completes probation or serves a jail term, he may start processing expungement.
Get Professional Legal Help for Your Public Intoxication Case
When facing public intoxication charges, never proceed without consulting an attorney first. While only a misdemeanor, a public intoxication conviction can have a serious negative effect on the defendant’s life.
Our DUI lawyers offer legal help for public intoxication cases throughout California. Contact us today if you have been charged with public intoxication or any DUI-related charges. Our team of legal experts will help you develop a defense strategy.