California Drunk in Public Charge

In California, many people are often arrested for a drinking in public charge. It is referred to as, drunk and disorderly conduct and is charged under California Penal Code §647(f).

In order for prosecutor’s to prove a drunk and disorderly conduct, certain elements of the charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

First and foremost, the prosecutor must demonstrate that you were willfully under the influence of alcohol. This means that you either took a blood alcohol test and there is evidence of your intoxication, or you demonstrated signs of intoxication. If you were given a blood alcohol test, then there is little room for dispute, unless you feel that the machine was not properly calibrated, or there are maintenance issues. If it was a blood test, you may feel that the sample was contaminated and is not giving an accurate reading.

If this is the case, then it is important to have a Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney contest the validity of the sample. If you feel that you were intoxicated, then the element of willful intoxication will likely have no problem being proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Secondly, the government must demonstrate to the courtroom that you were in a public place. Any area that is open to the public will meet this burden. If you are drunk in a restaurant, leaving a club or even outside a sports arena, you could be charged under California Penal Code §647 (f).

The last element that needs to demonstrate is the hardest to prove. The prosecutors must show that the person was not only in a public place, but they were a harm to themselves and others, and they were obstructing other people’s movement by being intoxicated in a public place.

Lets consider an example. David is hanging outside a club on a street in downtown and appears to be intoxicated. He is fumbling around in his pocket for his cell phone and then struggling to dial a number for a cab. He is visibly drunk, and people continue to walk by him. There would possibly be no debate as to David’s intoxication. Officer’s observations will state in their report that he exhibited clear signs. It is certainly a public place, since it is a street in downtown and people are walking by passing him. However, he is not a harm to himself or others. He is not starting a fight, he is not yelling at passersby, and he is certainly not causing anyone to be put in a situation where they would be injured. He also is no threat to himself as he is dialing a cab so that he can go home. David may be charged with drunk and disorderly conduct, but it is unlikely that he will be convicted.

A drunk and disorderly charge is a misdemeanor. Many people believe that it is easier to plead guilty and not go through the hassle of Court. What many people do not know is that this charge is one that is often without basis. It is a charge that is given to people who are intoxicated in public, and when it is argued in Court, the case generally can be reduced or dismissed. Speak to an experienced Criminal Defense attorney who can effectively argue in your favor and assure that it does not become a part of your permanent record.