In some southern California cities, the police aggressively enforce public intoxication laws. Police in the past have used the charge of drunk-and-disorderly as a “catch-all” offense to arrest those they consider undesirable or troublemakers. Police officers have even in the past arrested people for drunk-and-disorderly just because they think someone isn’t cooperating with them. California Penal Code 647(f) is the state’s “public intoxication” law, but simply being drunk in public is by itself not a crime and not enough to justify the criminal charge. Instead, to violate California’s “drunk in public” statute, you need to be so intoxicated that you:
- are unable to exercise care for your own safety or the safety of others, or
- interfere with, obstruct, or prevent others from using streets, sidewalks, or other “public ways.”
For a conviction, the state must prove that a defendant was “willfully intoxicated” in a “public place” and that the defendant was a safety risk. Simply being extremely drunk in public, by itself, means you are not guilty of the charge. Police officers occasionally conduct field sobriety tests to verify that the person about to be arrested is in fact intoxicated. While these tests may or may not confirm intoxication, what is more difficult to prove are the other elements necessary for a drunk-and-disorderly conviction.
Drunk-and-disorderly in public is a misdemeanor in California, but you can fight the charge with help from an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer. If convicted, you could face up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. But even if a judge sentences you only to probation, a “drunk in public” conviction will go on your permanent criminal record, where it can be seen by prospective employers and licensing agencies. In southern California, the person most able to help you fight a drunk-and-disorderly charge is an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer.