Drunk in Public
DRUNK IN PUBLIC LAWS
Although the law’s name suggests that if a person is drunk in a public location, they can be charged and eventually convicted of being drunk in public, this is not the case. In order for a person to be charged or even convicted of being drunk in public there are a few necessary elements:
- The person must willfully be under the influence of drugs, alcohol and/or another controlled substance
- They must be in a public place while under the influence
The person must also violate either or both of the following:
- They must be unable to care for their own safety or the safety of others
- They must interfere with, block, stop, or restrict others from using sidewalks, streets or other “public ways”
In this case, a public place is defined as any location that is accessible to anyone who wants to go there. These can include parks, malls, front porches and front yards of private residences. In the past, courts have even interpreted this to mean sitting in a parked car or on a public bench.
HOW THESE CHARGES ARE PROSECUTED
In order for a prosecutor to prove that an individual was drunk in public, they must prove that the person willfully of purposefully consumed the alcohol and/or the drugs. They must also prove that, while the individual was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, they were in a public place. Finally, the prosecutor must prove that the police arrested the individual while they were in a public location and that they did not move them to a public location before the arrest.
PENALTIES AND SENTENCING
Being convicted of being drunk in public is a misdemeanor in California. If convicted, a person can face up to 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. If a person is convicted three times in 12 months, there is a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail. The court can suspend the 90-day jail sentence, instead having the defendant spend 60 days in an alcohol treatment program. Additionally, there is an option where police officers can put the defendant in civil-protective custody, better known as placing them in the “drunk tank” for up to 72 hours. This option is only available in places where the police station has a “drunk tank” and where the defendant is only under the influence of alcohol.
If the individual was drunk in their back yard, in a hotel room or in a location that would not be considered a public place, then they cannot be found guilty of being drunk in public. A person can also not be found guilty of being drunk in public if they did not willfully or purposefully ingest the alcohol and/or drugs. A prosecutor has to prove that the individual charged was not only willfully drunk in public but that they were also unable to care for themselves or others or that they were interfering with others’ ability to use public areas and walkways. Sometimes there is not enough evidence to prove this; therefore another defense is to prove that there is not enough evidence for a conviction. Yet another line of defense is to prove that the police violated a person’s rights in the process of their investigation. If the police did not witness the crime themselves, if they fabricated evidence or if they performed an illegal search and seizure they violated the defendant’s personal rights.
READY TO FIGHT FOR YOU
If you or a loved one is facing an arson charge, you need an aggressive Orange County criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa, we serve people throughout Southern California, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.