buellton Criminal Defense Attorney-

Public Intoxication – Sanford Horowitz Criminal Defense, P.C.


Buellton is a growing community that is home to a burgeoning craft beer scene, window to world-class wines, and fun for the whole family. But with all of the exciting beer and wine festivities, it is easy to go overboard. Alcohol consumption in public, if taken too far, can lead to arrest on a charge of public intoxication.

California Penal Code 647f defines public intoxication as being willfully under the influence while you are in a public area. You must also be intoxicated to the point where you cannot care for your safety or the safety of others around you, and/or to the point that you have become a hindrance or obstruction to other people using the public walkways, such as pavements or streets.

In order to be convicted of public intoxication in Santa Ynez, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant was willfully under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance,
  • When the defendant was under the influence, he or she was in a public place, and either
  • The defendant was unable to exercise care for his or her own safety, or the safety of others, OR
  • Because the defendant was under the influence, he or she interfered with, obstructed, or became a hindrance to people using the public walkways, such as pavements or streets.

Looking at the above list, you might notice that state law requires that you have willfully become drunk in order to qualify for a conviction on this charge. If someone has put a substance in something you’ve been drinking without your knowledge, you are not willfully drunk.

Next, a public place is a place that is open and accessible to anyone who wishes to go there. The term “public place” has been broadly interpreted by courts, and even sitting in a parked car or on a public bench can satisfy this element of the statute.

Examples of public intoxication include:

  1. After a night of drinking at a bar with friends, you become so intoxicated that you pass out on the sidewalk in front of the bar. Because you are passed out, pedestrians trying to use the sidewalk must walk around you into the street. You could be charged with public intoxication under California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC as long as you voluntarily became intoxicated.
  2. After spending the night consuming alcohol at a bar, you become very angry when the bar cuts you off and throws you out. You become aggressive outside and try to pick fights with random strangers on the sidewalk.

If you have been arrested for being intoxicated in public, it does not mean that you are guilty. It’s important to vigorously fight a public intoxication charge because a criminal conviction will stay on your record and can adversely affect job and educational opportunities down the road.

A former Prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Offices in Santa Barbara and San Diego Counties, Sanford Horowitz and his legal team, will offer you a free consultation, investigate the evidence against you, and recommend practical steps to achieve the best possible results in your case.


public intoxication penalties

Drunk in public under California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 court fine.

If you are convicted of three public intoxication convictions within a 12-month period, you will be sentenced on the third offense to a minimum of 90 days in jail. Courts can suspend the jail sentence if you enter a 60-day alcohol treatment center.

If you are under the age of 21 and you are convicted for public intoxication, you can also lose your driver’s license for one year (California Vehicle Code Section 13202.52). If you do not have a driver’s license, the court will order the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to delay issuing you a driver’s license for one year subsequent to the time you become legally eligible to drive.

A public intoxication conviction may also have negative immigration consequences. Under the United States immigration law, certain kinds of criminal convictions in Buellton can lead to a non-citizen being deported. Some convictions can also make an immigrant “inadmissible”.

Additionally, if you willfully resist, delay, or obstruct a public officer in a discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of the officer, you are guilty of resisting arrest PC 148(a)(1). The crime of resisting, obstructing, or delaying an officer is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty, you may be punished by up to one year in jail.

Fighting a public intoxication charge

In the event that your case proceeds to trial, there are a number of legal defenses available to you and you should discuss all your options with your attorney. They may include:

  • Your alleged drunken behavior did not occur in a public place;
  • The prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove that you were intoxicated; or
  • Before, or at the time of arrest, your civil rights were violated by the police.

The term “in public” has a very specific definition under this law and has been interpreted by the courts in certain ways. It is always a legal defense to PC 647f accusations for an accused to say that, although intoxicated, they were not in a public place. You may argue, for instance, that you were drunk in your own home.

You must have your rights read to you in order to be convicted. While police have a limited excuse for not reading an arrestee their rights when the suspect cannot comprehend them, the excuse ends when the suspect is capable of understanding them. At that point police must read the suspect their Miranda Rights, otherwise, the civil rights of the arrestee are violated.

You must be “willfully under the influence” to be guilty of public intoxication in Buellton. If you were drunk because you accidently ingested drugs or alcohol, or did so otherwise involuntarily, then you are not guilty of public intoxication.

You may be convicted if you interfered with or obstructed the free use of a street, sidewalk, or other public way, while intoxicated. If you can prove that you did not interfere with a public way, then you will have a strong defense. For example, if you were so drunk that you fell asleep behind a dumpster in an alley, you were not obstructing any public areas. 


what if you are drunk in a private residence?

It’s perfectly legal to be drunk in public or private as long as your behavior isn’t affecting the safety or enjoyment of others. A private place, however, such as a residence or a backyard, does not qualify for a public intoxication charge.

does a drunk in public conviction affect a person’s gun rights?

A conviction for public intoxication does not have an effect on the convicted party’s gun rights. Note that some felony and misdemeanor convictions will result in the defendant losing his rights to own a gun in California.

Also note that some misdemeanors carry a 10-year firearm ban.

But a conviction for being drunk in public will not result in a person losing ownership of his gun or being banned from the gun for a period of time.


Under Penal Code 1203.4, an expungement releases an individual from virtually “all penalties and disabilities” arising out of the conviction.

A benefit of this is that an expunged conviction does not need to be disclosed to potential employers.

As a basic rule, PC 1203.4 authorizes an expungement for a misdemeanor or felony offense provided that the applicant successfully completed probation (either felony probation or misdemeanor probation), and is not currently:

  • charged with a criminal offense,
  • on probation for a criminal offense, or
  • serving a sentence for a criminal offense.

This means that once you successfully complete probation or serving a jail term, you may begin trying to get the crime expunged.


Don’t wait to contact Sanford Horowitz to ensure that your legal rights are protected.