California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC: Drunk in Public

public intoxication

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

While it is legal for those over the age of 21 to consume alcohol, there are situations where excessive alcohol consumption can lead to misdemeanor charges. Under California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC, it is a misdemeanor offense to be drunk in public. This offense, also referred to as public intoxication, covers a variety of drunken behavior, from aggressively picking fights while in public to being passed out on a sidewalk.

To prove that a defendant was drunk in public pursuant to California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC, the prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant was willfully under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both
  2. When the defendant was under the influence, he or she was in a public place
  3. AND the defendant was unable to exercise care for his or her own safety (or the safety of others)
  4. OR because the defendant was under the influence, he or she interfered with, obstructed or prevented the free use of a street, sidewalk or other public way.

Public place is a place that is open and accessible to anyone who wishes to go there. The term “public place” has been broadly interpreted by courts, and even sitting in a parked car on a public seat can satisfy this element of the statute.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Disturbing the Peace - California Penal Code Section 415 PC
  2. Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance - California Health and Safety Code Section 11550 H&S
  3. Driving Under the Influence (DUI)California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC and California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC

3. Examples

After a night of drinking at a bar with friends, a man becomes so intoxicated that he passes out on the sidewalk in front of the bar. Because he is passed out, pedestrians trying to use the sidewalk must walk around him into the street. The man could be charged with public intoxication under California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC as long as he voluntarily became intoxicated.

In another example, after spending the night consuming alcohol at a bar a man becomes very angry when the bar cuts him off and throws him out. The man becomes aggressive outside and tries to pick fights with random strangers on the sidewalk. This man could also be charged with drunk in public as a result of his conduct. In addition, he could be charged with disturbing the peace under California Penal Code Section 415 PC.

4. Defenses to Drunk in Public

If the conduct occurred in a home, hotel room or some other place that would not be considered a public place, the defendant would not be criminally liable under the drunk in public statute. However, as mentioned above, some seemingly private places, such as automobiles parked on public streets, are considered public places for purposes of the public intoxication statute.

In addition, there may be instances where a defendant was drugged or had something slipped into his drink that caused him to lose control of his faculties. Under these circumstances, the defendant would have a valid involuntary intoxication defense if charged with public intoxication.

5. Penalties

Drunk in public under California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 court fine. If a defendant is convicted of three drunk in public violations within a 12-month period, he or she must be sentenced on the third offense to a minimum of 90 days in jail. Courts can suspend the jail sentence if the defendant enters a 60-day alcohol treatment center.

6. Criminal Defense for Drunk in Public Cases

If you have been charged with being drunk in public, it is important that you speak with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who knows how to effectively defend charges like this. Mr. Kraut understands the serious collateral consequences a public intoxication charge can carry and works hard to ensure the best outcome possible for his clients.

For more information about drunk in public, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

Share |
Featured on CNN
ABC News
NBC News
Los Angeles Times
CBS News
The New York Times
Us Weekly
Entertainment Tonight
Good Morning America
Legal Broadcast Network
Avvo Rating 10.0
Client Reviews
Michael Kraut is outstanding! He genuinely cared about my case and instructed my mom and I throughout the entire process. He was very clear on what he needed in order to receive the best results. He kept us updated until the end. I thank him so much for getting my charges rejected. I highly recommend him to anyone with legal needs! Shaquan
I contacted Michael with concern for my personal and business reputation. He was very reassuring and confident the entire time. After about 3 weeks it was determined that no charges were being filed by any agency and I was in the clear of any investigation. One thing that is amazing is just how FAST Michael is at replying to phone calls, texts, and even emails! We are talking under 30 minutes in most cases. That is unheard of for most attorneys! Michael is incredible and not your typical run of the mill attorney. For best results hire him if you feel like you might be under investigation or could face charges. Even if you know you are innocent it is best to take care of the smoke before it becomes a fire. Brad
Michael Kraut is-hands down-the best criminal defense attorney and I can't begin to thank him for all that he did for me and my family. I reached out to him in the middle of the night and less than a couple hours later, he had gotten back to me and scheduled a meeting. He's a no-nonsense attorney who knows how to get the job done! From the second we retained him, I had peace of mind in knowing that we were in the best hands possible. If Michael Kraut couldn't get it done, I knew that it couldn't be done at all. You can't put a price tag on your freedom. He was worth every single penny. Lida
Michael Kraut is an outstanding attorney. He was extremely professional, and straightforward, yet sensitive with my case. I am confident I made the right choice by hiring Michael. I highly recommend him to anyone seeking a truly experienced lawyer. Daniel
Michael Kraut - I cannot thank you enough for all that you did for ​my son. When I came to you I read that you used to be a district attorney but I never knew how much that meant until I watch you in court. I knew it took 3 months but the final day when I heard the judge say that all charges were dismissed it was all worth it! I will always be grateful for all that you did for us. A.N.