Ventura Criminal Defense Attorney-

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

CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE 647(F): PUBLIC INTOXICATION DEFENSE ATTORNEY

Downtown Ventura is home to many trendy stores and exciting bars. The street hosts many events centered around alcohol, like The Champagne Walk and The Tequila Festival. Many natives and visitors from surrounding cities flock downtown to have a blast and let loose. However, alcohol consumption in public if taken too far can lead to arrest on a charge of public drunkenness.

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.

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.

THE ACT OF PUBLIC INTOXICATION

In order to convict you of public intoxication in Ventura, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You were willfully under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a controlled substance;
  2. You were in a public place when you were under the influence; and
  3. You were either unable to exercise care for your safety or the safety of others, or you were obstructing a “public way.”

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, California law defines a public place as any area outside of a home in which a stranger is free to walk. This can be anything from a sidewalk to a restaurant, stadium, pub, nightclub, a hallway in a hotel or apartment building, or in a car parked on a street. This includes a front lawn, but not a backyard of a home.

Let’s say Hayley ingests drugs at a party that cause her to frantically sprint up a freeway ramp, thinking she can walk across it. If her actions cause a big wreckage of cars that run into each other trying to avoid her, she can be charged with public intoxication because her behavior obstructed the use of the freeway.

If Michael has been drinking heavily at a bar and realizes he is too drunk to drive, he can decide to walk home. Although he is swaying back and forth, he is not causing harm to himself or others. Because Michael is not a danger, and he was not interfering with others’ ability to access the public ways, he is not guilty of public intoxication.

PUBLIC INTOXICATION PENALTIES

California Penal Code 647(f) is a misdemeanor offense.  If convicted, you may face the following penalties:

PenaltyMisdemeanor
FineMax of $1000
ProbationInformal Probation
County JailMax of 6 Months in County Jail

If you were convicted of Penal Code 647(f) three times within a 12-month period, you face a minimum of 90 days in a county jail.  However, the court can suspend that sentence if you enter a 60-day alcohol treatment facility.

If you are under age 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 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 Goleta can lead to a non-citizen being deported. Some convictions can also make an immigrant “inadmissible”.

The major categories of “deportable” or “inadmissible” crimes are:

  • crimes of moral turpitude,
  • aggravated felonies,
  • controlled substance (drug) offenses,
  • firearm offenses, and
  • domestic violence crimes

If a defendant violated this statute because he was intoxicated via drug use or by using a controlled substance, then there may be grounds for deportation or inadmissibility.

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

If you are accused of a crime under this statute, then you can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.

Three common defenses to this crime are to show that you were:

  • not in a public place,
  • involuntarily intoxicated, and/or
  • lack of probable cause

NOT IN A PUBLIC PLACE

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.

INVOLUNTARILY INTOXICATED

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

LACK OF PROBABLE CAUSE

If the police violated your Constitutional rights because they stopped you or arrested you without having a reason to do so, your attorney can request from the court that whatever evidence the police obtained illegally is suppressed and that the case be dismissed.

Examples include:

  • The police arrested you for being drunk in public without seeing any conduct that either shows that you were a danger to yourself or others, or that you interfered or obstructed other’s ability to access the public ways;
  • The police performed an illegal search on you in violation of the search and seizure law

PUBLIC INTOXICATION EXPOSURE FAQ’S

WHAT IF YOU ARE DRUNK IN A PRIVATE RESIDENCE?

It’s perfectly legal to be drunk in public as long as your behavior isn’t affecting the safety or enjoyment of others. Just the same, it’s legal to be drunk in private.

CAN I RECEIVE A DRUNK IN PUBLIC CHARGE IF I AM IN A PARKED CAR?

Yes. If you are parked on any public street or area while you are intoxicated while sitting in your car, the police may arrest you and file a drunk in public charge against you. The police may also state you were attempting to drive under the influence and charge you with the much more serious crime of DUI, depending on the circumstances.

CAN A PERSON GET AN EXPUNGEMENT AFTER A PENAL CODE 647F CONVICTION?

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 a jail term, you may begin trying to get the crime expunged.

PUBLIC INTOXICATION DEFENSE ATTORNEYS IN VENTURA

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