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Is It a Crime to Be Drunk in Public in California?

Drunk in Public

Alcohol-related laws differ from state to state and even city to city. This is the reason why you can walk around Las Vegas with an open container of alcohol, but you can’t in California. But, what if you are already drunk and walk around Santa Barbara, is it legal?

Drunk in Public

California Penal Code Section 647(f) does have a law punishing being “drunk in public,” but what does that mean? The law defines it as someone who is “unable to exercise care for their own safety or the safety of others.” Additionally, if “the individual interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk or other public way” due to being intoxicated, they may be charged with being drunk in public. You can also be charged with this if you are under the influence of another controlled substance.

What Does the Prosecutor Have to Prove in a Drunk in Public Case?

There are three elements to a conviction for being drunk in public. The first is that you willingly were under the influence. If you are slipped drugs or given alcohol without your knowledge, you cannot be found guilty.

Secondly, the prosecutor has to demonstrate that you were in a public place. Lastly, it must be proven that you were unable to exercise care for your own safety or the safety of others. If a drunk person is walking home and swaying side to side, but otherwise not interfering with anyone else, they would not be found guilty of being drunk in public.

Potential Penalties

Drunk in public is a misdemeanor that carries a fine up to $1,000 and a maximum jail sentence of 6 months. To avoid these severe penalties, you should seek experienced legal counsel.

Need help with your case? The lawyers at Appel & Morse have over thirty years of legal experience and can offer you a free consultation. Give us a call at (805) 467-6060 or fill out an online contact form.

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