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A large number of arrests are made by the police across the United States and other countries for public intoxication or drunk in public. It is also referred to as drunk and disorderly. Although many of these arrests resulted from citizen complaints rather than the initiative of police officers, the offense of drunkenness gives police great discretion in their encounters with the public. The charge of public intoxication is usually reserved for persons who became involved in major disturbances such as fights, neighborhood disturbances, or attacks on police officers. In California, drunk in public is a misdemeanor offence. California Penal Code 647f deals with the offense of drunk in public. Police contacts for drunk in public offenses can lead to criminal charges including being convicted of 647f.
Legal Definition & Penalties for 647f
Drunk in public does not mean that the person had a glass of alcohol and is walking down the street. There is more to drunk in public than drinking alcohol in a public location. To be convicted of 647f in California, the person must be willfully intoxicated to the extent that he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or that of others and he or she is in a public place. The level of intoxication must be such that the person can indulge in acts that could potentially harm the person, result in harm to others, or cause damage to property. A person can also be convicted of 647f if he or she is willfully intoxicated in a public place and as a result of the intoxication, interferes, obstructs or prevents others from using the street, sidewalk or any other public way.
Under California Penal Code 647f, drunk in public is a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor offense is punishable with a fine of less than $1000 and jail term of less than 12 months. Persons convicted of 647f can be sent to jail for up to six month, fined up to $1000 and sentenced to informal probation. The penalties are enhanced for subsequent drunk in public charges.
Potential Legal Defenses
Often police arrest persons for being drunk in public merely for yelling or screaming or creating a scene while in public. A person cannot be convicted of public intoxication for doing such things just because he or she had a glass of alcohol. The police must prove that the person indulged in such things because of the level of intoxication. More often than not, police arrest persons they believe are drunk without regard to their ability to care for themselves or others. Certain individuals have a greater level of tolerance for alcohol.
The offense must have occurred in a public place. So a person arrested in his own backyard or porch cannot be convicted of 647f. Another element of the offense is that the person must be willfully under the influence. If someone forcibly feeds alcohol to a person and places that person in a public place, the person cannot be convicted of 647f. He or she will have a valid defense. It is not uncommon for the police to stop and search a drunk person without probable cause. Detaining and searching a person without probable cause is sufficient grounds to have the evidence recovered from such search set aside.
California Drunk in Public Legal Information
Being convicted of 647f in California can result in a jail term, hefty fines and probation. It will also appear on the person’s record. If you or a loved one is facing a California drunk in public charge, consult with a Newport Beach DUI Lawyer. Call (888) 250-2865 to receive a free consultation from a Law Offices of Randy Collins.