Caught Drunk In Public? Defending a Public Intoxication Charge First of all, let’s start with the definition of “Public Intoxication” as it applies to the law in San Diego, California. Public intoxication is NOT just being drunk in public. That alone is not a crime in California. To be in violation of the law, a person must be drunk in a public place and either:
Now let’s break down the separate elements of this public intoxication law:
- Be obstructing or preventing others from using the public sidewalk or other public paths
- Or unable to care for their own safety or the safety of others
Please note that there is a separate “disorderly conduct” statute in California that is sometimes confused with public intoxication. However, they are very different laws with very different penalties. It’s important that you are not found guilty of public intoxication if you are simply guilty of disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace since these statutes come with less severe punishments.
- Intoxication includes being under the influence of alcohol, as well as under the influence of illegal drugs, a controlled substance, or other intoxicants such as an inhalant.
- Examples of public places include sidewalks, streets, parks, stadiums, etc. It does not include a private residence, an area that is not open to the general public, or an area that is merely open to public view.
- The interpretation of being unable to care for one’s own safety or the safety of others is not explicitly defined in the law and is often left to be determined by the arresting police officer.
What To Expect After a Public Intoxication Charge The penalties for getting caught drunk and deemed unsafe in public are harsh, probably more so than you think. A public intoxication charge is usually treated as a class B misdemeanor, not as a citation. Because of this, your public intoxication charge may land you with the following penalties:
It’s important to note that public intoxication by a minor (usually under 21 years of age) can often be treated more strictly by the court due to zero tolerance policies. In addition, the parents of the minor may be held liable, especially if they enabled or encouraged the illegal activity.
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Probation and/or parole
- Up to 6 months in county jail
- A permanent criminal record
How To Get a Good Defense Against Your Public Intoxication Charge Because the penalties for a public intoxication charge can be so severe, it’s imperative that you get yourself the best defense possible if you find yourself in trouble. You and your family simply can’t afford to just hope for the best and live with the consequences if you’re found guilty! There are a number of defenses that an experienced California defense lawyer can use to give you the best outcome possible. For example, perhaps you were not actually drunk, or at least not to the point of causing harm or a safety issue. Maybe you were wrongfully cited in a private area rather than a public one, or you were involuntarily in a public place at the time of arrest. Perhaps at the time of arrest, you were under the influence of a medication taken as directed by your doctor. Were your civil rights violated by the arresting officer? Finally, there may be insufficient evidence to convict you of public intoxication. Any of these defenses can be used to help prove your innocence as long as you have an expert on your side in court. Contact criminal defense attorney Bradley Corbett for a free 24/7 consultation on how to get your public intoxication charges lessened or dropped!
Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.