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Watch Out for Public Intoxication Charges This Halloween

By San Diego Attorney on October 28, 2018

Halloween is right around the corner. For children, that means trick-or-treating and lots of candy, but it often means something else for adults. This is the time of year for parties, and alcohol is a big part of those parties.

While having a few cocktails with friends in costume is a great way to celebrate the holiday, there are some things you should watch out for in San Diego. One of those is public intoxication. California has statutes pertaining to being drunk in public, and those convicted of this crime may face serious consequences.

California’s Drunk in Public Laws

Being drunk in public is covered in California Penal Code, Section 647. Despite the name, simply being drunk in a public place is not enough to be charged with this crime. In order to be charged, a person needs to be so drunk that he is unable to keep himself or those around him safe in a public space. Blocking or preventing other people from using “public ways” such as streets or sidewalks can also result in an arrest and charge. If the person is in his backyard or on someone else’s private property, he cannot be charged with being drunk in public. If a person is drunk in public but not exhibiting any of these behaviors, he should not be charged with this crime.

In addition to these requirements, the person must be willfully under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If a drug was slipped into his drink, or his drink was spiked with alcohol and he did not realize it, he cannot be charged with being drunk in a public place.

For example, say a person is intoxicated and walking down a sidewalk, but not being disruptive. She should not be charged with being drunk in public. However, if that same person stretched out on the sidewalk to rest, forcing people to step over her, she could be arrested and charged with being drunk in public.

Penalties for Being Drunk in Public

Being drunk in public is considered a misdemeanor in California. Those convicted may face up to six months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. In some cases, a judge may decide to sentence the accused to probation rather than jail.

If a person is arrested for public intoxication, the police may place the person in civil protective custody rather than file criminal charges. The person will be taken to an inebriation facility, sometimes referred to as the drunk tank. A person may be held in this facility for up to 72 hours for treatment and observation. Those placed in these facilities cannot have criminal charges filed against them at a later time. Only certain cities and towns in California have these facilities, so they are not an option for everyone.

It is important to remember that even a misdemeanor conviction for being drunk in public will result in a permanent mark on your criminal record. This record can be seen by prospective employers, landlords, and others. When they see that you have been convicted of a crime, no matter how minor, they can deny you opportunities such as jobs, housing, federal grants, and more.

Anyone charged with being drunk in public in San Diego should speak to a criminal defense attorney right away.

How an Attorney Can Help

At JD Law, we know the defenses available for this crime, and we will know which one to apply to your specific situation.

In many cases, police officers are simply annoyed by people who are drunk in public and charge them with a crime, even though they are not guilty of one. We can collect video surveillance to show that you were not bothering anyone or acting unsafely, or perhaps that your civil rights were violated when you were arrested.

If you or a loved one was arrested for public drunkenness, call us right away at (760) 630-2000. Our San Diego defense lawyers will give you the best chance at beating the charges, ensuring you do not have a criminal record that will follow you around for the rest of your life. Your first consultation is free, so do not delay. The sooner you act, the sooner we can go to work to fight those charges.

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