Drunk in Public

Criminal defense attorneys know that perhaps the single most overcharged offense is Orange County, California is Penal Code section 647(f), or "drunk in public." I have handled hundreds of these cases and have seen this charged under the following circumstances:
  • A man walks out of a bar and is standing on a street corner, waiting for a taxi.
  • A couple get in a fight and one leaves the house to take a walk.
  • A driver is pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol. His passengers are charged with drunk in public.
  • A house party is broken up. The guests are charged with drunk in public.
Although it seems like a minor charge, "drunk in public" is a misdemeanor and pleading to it can pose significant consequences. A person is typically placed on probation, ordered to pay fines, may have to do classes or community service and a conviction is placed on his record. For college students, this could result in losing financial aid. It could also result in a loss of employment or job offers after a background check. It may present professional licensing implications as well.

Despite its broad sweep, a "drunk in public" charge can be surprisingly easy for a criminal defense lawyer to fight. It is unclear what "drunk" means. Unlike a driving under the influence charge, there is no minimum blood alcohol concentration that must be met. Clearly, being in public while simply having consumed alcohol is not illegal. (If that were the case, no restaurant would be allowed to serve alcohol.)

To be convicted of being drunk in public, the prosecution must prove that you were either 1) so drunk that you were unable to care for yourself or the safety of others; or 2) that you were so drunk that you were falling down or passed out such that you prevented others from using a public roadway.

Knowing what is required for a conviction, it is difficult to see how the prosecution could garner a conviction in any of the factual scenarios described above. And, in fact, prosecutors almost always offer some sort of attractive deal (usually resulting in a dismissal) when drunk in public cases are set for jury trial.

If you or a loved one are charged with Penal Code section 647(f) or drunk in public in Orange County or Southern California, don't plead guilty unnecessarily. Call Orange County criminal defense attorney Staycie R. Sena now at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation.
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