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Arrested for Public Intoxication in Orange County?

Understanding the Charge of Being Drunk in Public

The crime of being drunk in public is defined under Penal Code (PC) 647(f) as a person,

"who is found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor […] unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others [and] interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way."

To prove your guilt, the Orange County prosecutor must show that you were willfully under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and that at the time you were under the influence you were in a public place, and unable to exercise care for your own safety and the safety of others, or because of your drunkenness you interfered with, obstructed, or prevented the free use of a sidewalk, street, or other public way.

What is considered a "public place?"

Under the People v. Olson, the courts have defined a "public place" as the area outside a home where a stranger can walk without challenge. A public place may include the following types of areas:

  • Parks
  • Public streets
  • Restaurants
  • Schools
  • Beaches
  • Community centers

Under the Olson ruling, you could be arrested for being drunk in public even if you're on the front lawn, driveway, or front porch of a private residence. Bottom line, the definition of a "public place" is very broad and if you're allegedly drunk in a place where the average person gathers, or is able to gather, it likely meets the criteria of being drunk in public.

Obstruction of Others While Intoxicated

Your level of alleged drunkenness must have interfered with, obstructed, or prevented others from using streets, sidewalks, or other public ways. Understand, drunk in public becomes a crime when you become a safety risk to yourself and/or others, and/or interfering with other people's right of movement.

So, for example, if you're bar hopping with your friends on a Saturday night in downtown Fullerton and you and your friends had a few drinks and are now walking down the street minding your own business, you and your friends shouldn't be arrested for being drunk in public. This will hold true as long as you are not causing any problems.

However, if you and your friends are walking through downtown Fullerton drunk, and one friend starts yelling incoherently to some stranger, another friend tries to start a fight, and you begin walking in the middle of Harbor Boulevard blocking traffic, police will likely arrest you for being drunk in public.

Defending the Charge

There are several defense options available to you, and just because you were drunk and might have been in a public place will not always mean you're guilty of the crime.

Common defenses of public intoxication include:

  • You weren't in a public place - If you were arrested in a hotel room, inside your house, or another place not deemed "public," you cannot be charged with being drunk in public. This is why you need to contact an Orange County defense attorney right away, because what is "public" and what is "private" in respect to being drunk in public is very complex and even depends on very little details like whether or not your garage door was open at the time of your arrest.
  • You weren't legally drunk - Much like DUI laws, police cannot arrest you simply because they "think" you're drunk, rather they need to perform a test to see if you're legally drunk. If there was no test, then there isn't a case against you. Even if there was a test and you allegedly failed it, California has very strict law how the tests must be performed, and any slight mistake by police can lead to your case being dismissed.
  • Police violated your rights - In investigating drunk in public situations, it's somewhat common for police to detain you without witnessing a crime and perform an illegal search and seizure. If they violated your rights, chances are highly likely your case will be dismissed.

Consequences of Conviction

Drunk in public is a misdemeanor; if convicted, you face informal probation, up to a $1,000 fine, and possibly up to 6 months in jail. If this is your first offense, your attorney will work to keep you out of jail. If this is your third conviction within a 12-month period, you face a minimum 90-day jail sentence.

However, if it seems the odds are against you, a criminal attorney can negotiate with either the Orange County District Attorney's office or judge to place you in an "informal diversion" program. If you agree to perform community service and/or attend AA meetings and successfully complete those requirements, your case is dismissed and, best of all, this charge doesn't appear on your criminal record.

Call The Law Offices of Michael L. Guisti right now!

Maybe you've been looking around online seeing if there is a way you can just go talk to the judge yourself, explain your situation how you were really inside your house when you were arrested and hope the judge will agree. However, talking to the judge yourself creates more problems than it solves for you as when you're speaking to the judge you may accidentally further incriminate yourself.

You need somebody by your side that understands the complexities of the law, so please call The Law Offices of Michael L. Guisti right away. Not only will our legal team go over and explain the complexities of this charge, but by calling right away before the Orange County District Attorney formally files charges, we can not only work with the DA to reduce charges and even arrange for an alternative sentence, but also investigate police action leading to your arrest, which could result in your case being dismissed.

We'll handle your case in the best possible ways to reduce your criminal charges or even dismiss your case. We can guide you through the legal process, represent you in and out of court, give you all best possible solutions for your case and do everything possible to make this complicated much easier for you.