Home · Blog · Other : Drunk In Public

Newport Beach Drunk in Public Attorney

California Penal Code section 647(f) prohibits a person from being so intoxicated that they cannot care for themselves. This is commonly known as “drunk in public.” Most people, including police officers, are not aware of the standards for this crime. Simply being drunk is not a violation of the law — the prosecution needs to prove the defendant was so drunk as to be unable to care for himself or herself or was blocking a street or sidewalk. If you are facing this charge, it is important to have a criminal defense lawyer who understands the elements of the charge and what defenses will work. With offices throughout Southern California, Fred Thiagarajah, routinely gets these cases dismissed by exploiting the weaknesses in the prosecution`s case.

Elements of Drunk in Public

In order to be convict the Defendant of this crime, the People must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1.      The defendant was willfully under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance;

2.      When the defendant was under the influence, he/she was in a public place;


3.      The defendant was unable to exercise care for his/her own safety OR because the defendant was under the influence, he/she interfered with / obstructed / prevented the free use of a street, sidewalk or other public way.

Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose.

As used here, a public place is a place that is open and accessible to anyone who wishes to go there.  The courts have held that being inside a parked car on a public street is a public place.  (People v. Belanger 1966).

Defenses to Drunk in Public

The best defense to drunk in public is to attack the elements.  If the prosecution fails to show that the defendant was “unable to exercise care for his/her own safety”, then the defendant is not guilty.  What does this mean?   Perhaps the defendant was able to walk out of the bar.  Perhaps the defendant had the ability to call a cab.  Perhaps the defendant was able to communicate with the officers.  All of these facts suggest the defendant was able to take care of himself.  You need a criminal defense attorney that will explore all the facts in order to present the best defense possible.

Sentencing for Drunk in Public

Drunk in public is always a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of six months county jail.  However, the courts rarely impose jail time unless the defendant has a chronic alcohol problem and this is not the first offense.

If the defendant is under 21, a conviction will result in a one-year license suspension from the DMV.

Other Consequences

Not only can a drunk in public conviction lead to criminal, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences.  Having a drunk in public conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job.  Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks.  A professional who has a drunk in public conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place.  The most severe impact of a drunk in public conviction involves immigration consequences.  Although drunk in public convictions don’t usually have immigration consequences, there are some situations where an extra misdemeanor conviction can have immigration consequences.  Non-citizens who are permanent residents, with a green card, or temporary visitors with a visa, can be denied admission or naturalization or even deported, with certain misdemeanor convictions on their record.

The Right Lawyer

Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will be the most important decision someone can make when facing criminal drunk in public charges.  Many people who face drunk in public charges are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment.  There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of drunk in public, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence.  You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively.  You need the Law Offices of Fred Thiagarajah.

As a former Deputy District Attorney, Fred Thiagarajah, and his team have the negotiating skills and trial experience necessary to get the best results for their clients, for criminal cases and immigration consequences.   For an example of their work, please see their  case results and read their client testimonials.  With offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, Murrieta, Rancho Cucamonga and Riverside, Fred Thiagarajah and his team have criminal defense experience in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

Fred Thiagarajah – The Right Lawyer.  The Right Result. 

Make The Right Choice.


© 2016 FRED THIAGARAJAH - All rights reserved.

Website Designed by OCOnlineMarketing