What are the Elements of a Drunk and Disorderly Conduct Charge in the South Bay?

 California Penal Code §647 defines several different scenarios in which a person may be charged with lewd or lascivious conduct.

One of the most common scenarios in which many of our clients find themselves, is when they are charged with drunk and disorderly conduct. The relevant code section under California Penal Code §647 (f) reads:

“who is found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, controlled substance, or toluene, in a condition that he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others, or by reason of his or her being under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, or toluene, interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way”

There are several different elements to a drunk and disorderly conduct charge, as outlined in the code section. Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. A person is found in a public place
  2. Under the influence
  3. In a condition that he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety, or the safety of others
  4. OR interferes with or obstructs or prevents free use of any street, sidewalk or public way.

Lets consider an example. Danny is outside of a bar. He is clearly intoxicated. He is unable to get into the bar so he is sitting outside on a bench. He is sitting to the side of the bench, and is quietly drinking water hoping to sober up. The bench is next to sidewalk and placed there for the purpose of sitting. Danny is not in the middle of the sidewalk, he is not talking to anyone, nor is he falling over.

If Danny is charged with drunk and disorderly conduct, it is likely that he will be able to overcome the charges against him. Prosecutors will have a hard time making a case that Danny was a harm to the safety of himself or others, or that he was obstructing the sidewalk. Furthermore, unless he was administered a drug test, it will be difficult to establish that he was intoxicated.

The elements of this charge are subjective and there is room for argument and defenses. Using the help of a Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer can really help your chances for a dismissal, or in the very least a reduction. If you find yourself in this situation, do not hesitate, consult a professional as soon as possible to learn what your possible arguments and defenses are.