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California PC 647 f | Public Intoxication

Public intoxication is not automatically illegal. However, it can become illegal if you are excessively intoxicated and unable to take care of your own safety. It’s important to not ignore the potential severity of these charges. Although they may seem less serious, they can result in significant fines, jail time, and required rehabilitation or similar programs. Having a criminal conviction can hurt your ability to obtain housing, get jobs, and find educational opportunities. It’s essential to understand what it means to face charges of public intoxication under Penal Code 647(f).

What Is Penal Code 647(f)?

Under California Penal Code 647(f), it is illegal to be under the influence in public spaces if it is a threat to your safety or the safety of others. It covers other acts of disorderly conduct while publicly intoxicated, such as obstructing the use of streets, sidewalks, or other public ways. This is a misdemeanor offense.

What Does the Prosecution Have to Prove?

To convict a person of PC 647(f), the prosecution has to establish the following:

  1. The individual was willingly under the influence of alcohol, drugs, another controlled substance, or a combination of these.
  2. While under the influence, the individual was in a public space.
  3. The individual was unable to care for their own safety or the safety of others, or they were obstructing or interfering with the free use of a street, sidewalk, or public way.
Defining Willingly

The prosecution must prove that the individual was willingly under the influence or purposefully ingested a controlled substance. Doing so unknowingly, unwillingly, or by accident does not constitute a charge under PC 647(f).

Defining Controlled Substance

A controlled substance refers to any drug, chemical, or other substance that is regulated by the state or federal government. This includes cocaine, morphine, other narcotics, marijuana, and controlled prescription drugs.

Defining Public Place

A public place is refined as an accessible place open to the public, including parks, sidewalks, streets, restaurants, malls, and other public venues and businesses. The term public place has often been interpreted broadly by California courts. It may also include the inside of a car that is parked on a public street or a common area in an apartment complex. For this reason, someone may be charged with public intoxication and may not consider the place they are to be public.

Definition of Unable to Care for Your Own Safety

Public intoxication laws exist to protect individuals from their own actions and the public from the potential dangers that these individuals cause. This is how the law defines being unable to care for your own safety. It looks at the unique facts of your case and determines if you were a risk to your safety, the safety of others, or were obstructing public spaces. The law enforcement officer who arrested you may explain why they determined you to be a risk to public safety as part of the prosecution’s evidence. You and your defense attorney may attempt to argue why you were not a risk to public safety.

What Is the Sentence for Public Intoxication in California?

Public intoxication under PC 647(f) is a misdemeanor in California. If you are arrested, charged, and convicted of public intoxication, it can result in the following penalties:

  • Imprisonment for up to 6 months in jail
  • Summary probation
  • A fine of up to $1,000

Summary probation is misdemeanor probation, which may allow you to serve your time outside of jail. Additionally, the court may assign community service instead of a fine.

If you are convicted of public intoxication three times within 12 months, there is a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail. The judge has the option to suspend the 90-day sentence and require you to attend a 60-day alcohol treatment and recovery center.

In some cases, community service or recovery center enrollment can prevent a permanent criminal record. It’s important to discuss your options with your attorney to determine what legal options are available to you.

Potential Defenses to Penal Code 647(f)

Although many people may think that the consequences of public intoxication are not severe, the truth is that any criminal conviction can severely alter your life. It’s ideal to avoid a criminal conviction whenever possible, including for public intoxication.

Just because you or a loved one has been arrested for public intoxication, that doesn’t mean that conviction is guaranteed. There are still defenses to the charges that can be implemented if you get in contact with an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can review the facts and circumstances of your arrest and the charges against you. They can help you understand what a realistic outcome is and fight for the most ideal solution. A defense attorney is your greatest chance at limiting or eliminating the charges against you. Common defenses against public intoxication charges include:

  • Didn’t Occur in a Public Place

To be convicted of public intoxication, the actions that you are being charged for must have happened in a public space. If they didn’t, then you can’t be convicted. However, because the definition of public places has been broadly interpreted, a person can be convicted for being intoxicated in their parked car if it was parked somewhere publicly accessible.

A person can’t be convicted of being publicly intoxicated in their own home or hotel room, as that is not publicly accessible. An arrest, in that case, would likely be a violation of civil rights. An effective attorney would be able to determine if this defense works for your situation.

  • Involuntarily Intoxicated

Another aspect of being convicted includes being willfully under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other controlled substances. If you were not willfully under the influence, you can’t be charged. If your attorney can prove that you were forced or tricked into ingesting a controlled substance, or that you consumed a controlled substance without knowing it, you can’t be convicted. Your defense attorney can help you determine if an involuntary intoxication defense is right for your situation.

  • No Interference, Obstruction, or Lack of Safety

It takes a skilled attorney to prove that you were not a danger to your safety or the safety of others, though it is possible. If the prosecution doesn’t have significant evidence to prove that you were a danger, you may not be able to be convicted. Law enforcement officers may sometimes arrest those who are only moderately intoxicated, and therefore there is not enough evidence to convict them. If you are being charged because you obstructed or interfered with a public way, an attorney may be able to show that you were not obstructing or interfering with those passages.

In a criminal trial, the prosecution has to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If they can’t do that, then you can’t be convicted.

Additional Consequences of a Conviction

There are other consequences besides immediate criminal penalties when you are convicted of a crime. In addition to fines, jail time, and alternate sentencing, a public intoxication conviction may have the following consequences:

  • Being fired from your job
  • Denied potential employment opportunities
  • Rejection of housing applications
  • Inability to apply for public housing
  • Losing or being denied educational opportunities
  • Losing or being denied a professional license

A criminal conviction also comes with negative social consequences, even a misdemeanor like public intoxication. There are several unfortunate assumptions many people have about those with criminal records.

Penal Code 647(f) and Immigration Statuses

A conviction for public intoxication also has the potential to impact your immigration status if you are not a U.S. citizen. If you are not a citizen, being convicted of certain crimes can lead to deportation or being considered inadmissible. Being considered inadmissible means that you are not allowed by law to enter or remain in the country. In some cases, public intoxication can be grounds for inadmissibility or deportation.

For a non-citizen to be deported or considered inadmissible, a criminal conviction must be one of the following:

  • An aggravated felony
  • Drug offenses
  • Firearm offenses
  • Domestic violence or abuse crimes
  • A crime of moral turpitude, or a crime that is generally considered vile or depraved

A conviction of PC 647(f) may be considered a deportable or inadmissible offense under drug offenses. This is only if the prosecution can prove that the offense is severe or significant enough. If you are a non-citizen under arrest for public intoxication, you need a defense attorney to protect your rights and ensure that your side of the story is advocated for. Subsequent offenses or having a criminal history will be considered more serious or significant and are more likely to result in deportation.

Can a Penal Code 647(f) Conviction Be Expunged?

It is possible to apply to have a criminal record expunged after a public intoxication conviction. It’s in your interests to have it removed from your record, as it allows you to not have to disclose the conviction to potential employers.

You are usually able to apply for expungement if you have successfully completed all the terms of your probation. You also can’t be serving a criminal sentence, on probation, or currently charged with a criminal offense.

Civil Protective Custody Under Penal Code 647(g)

In certain situations, you may be detained in civil protective custody when you are drunk in public. This can allow you to avoid criminal prosecution. If a police officer is reasonably able to do so, you will be placed in civil protective custody. This won’t apply if the following is true:

  1. You are under the influence of any drug or a combination of drugs and alcohol.
  2. A police officer has probable cause to believe that you committed any felony or a misdemeanor in addition to the misdemeanors described in 647(f).
  3. A police officer, in good faith, believes that you will escape civil protective custody or be unreasonably difficult to control by medical personnel.

In these cases, you will face arrest and criminal charges. Even if you meet the criteria, you may not be placed into civil protective custody because not all cities have those facilities. You would face criminal charges.

Additional Penal Code 647 Laws for Disorderly Conduct

Penal Code 647 outlines several other illegal acts in addition to public drunkenness. These offenses are often considered to be laws against disorderly conduct in California, although there is no specific law in the state that prohibits disorderly conduct.

  • 647(a): This makes it illegal to solicit someone to engage in lewd conduct in public, a public place, or places exposed to public view. This is a misdemeanor offense resulting in fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months in jail. It does not require sex offender registration.
  • 647(b): This makes it illegal to solicit, agree to engage in, or engage in prostitution. This is a misdemeanor and does not require mandatory sex offender registration. Penalties increase if there are priorable offenses. A first offense is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
  • 647(c), (d), and (h): These criminalize loitering and begging in a public place for donations or in a public toilet to solicit others for lewd or unlawful acts. It also criminalizes loitering or prowling on another person’s private property without business or purpose. These are all charged as misdemeanors.
  • 647(e): This makes it illegal to stay in a public or private vehicle, building, structure, or place without the owner’s permission.
  • 647(i), (j), and (k): This criminalizes the act of peeping while loitering, at close range, or with optical instruments such as binoculars.

If you have been charged with any disorderly conduct, it’s essential to begin working with an attorney. A criminal record can harm your future regardless of whether the crime is considered minor.

Related Crimes to Public Intoxication

There are other crimes that a person could be charged with when they are publicly intoxicated. This may be in addition to any penalties that come from a Penal Code 647(f) conviction. These crimes may include:

  • Disturbing the Peace

Disturbing the peace is covered under Penal Code 415. Disturbing the peace includes the following categories of conduct:

  • Fighting in a public place, or challenging someone to a fight
  • Purposefully disturbing the peace with unreasonably loud noise
  • Using offensive language in a public place that is likely intended to provoke violence

Disturbing the peace is charged as a misdemeanor, with penalties including up to $400 in fines and imprisonment for up to 90 days.

  • Loitering to Solicit the Purchase of Alcohol

Under Penal Code 303(a), it is illegal to loiter around or in a bar or restaurant that sells alcohol to ask, beg, or solicit someone else to buy drinks for you. This law does not apply to liquor stores or convenience stores, which sell alcohol to be taken off their premises. Conviction of PC 303(a) is a misdemeanor that results in up to 6 months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

  • Resisting Arrest

Resisting arrest is covered under Penal Code 148(a)(1), along with any action that delays, resists, or obstructs a law enforcement officer or emergency medical technician (EMT) in their duties. This may include giving false information to authorities or struggling against handcuffs. It may also include physically running away from an arrest. In most cases, resisting arrest is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines if convicted.

Resisting arrest is also covered under Penal Code 69, which makes it illegal to resist an executive officer. This includes law enforcement officers, judges, government prosecutors and defense attorneys, and other elected officials. PC 69 covers threats or violence that either prevents these officials from completing a lawful duty or resisting actions of a lawful duty. This may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A conviction for a felony may result in 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison.

Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and incredibly dangerous to you, your passengers, and others on the road. You can be convicted of a DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit of 0.08%. You can also be convicted if your BAC is under the legal limit if your physical and mental capabilities are at all impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any controlled substances. This includes legal and over-the-counter medications that impair your ability to drive safely.

DUIs without aggravating factors are prosecuted as misdemeanors. Aggravating factors include:

  • Having an extremely high BAC
  • Causing extreme injury
  • Causing death
  • Having prior DUIs on your record

A DUI conviction may lead to:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Required DUI school
  • The installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle to continue driving
Contact Power Trial Lawyers, Today

At Power Trial Lawyers, we believe in devoting our time and care to each individual case. If you or a loved one has been charged with public intoxication, or other acts of disorderly conduct, contact our team today. Our attorneys have experienced fighting successfully for those charged with criminal offenses.

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