What You Need to Know About Public Intoxication in California

Public intoxication situations are dealt with differently in every state. Here is what you need to know about public intoxication laws, penalties, and defenses in California.

California law deems public intoxication a misdemeanor. A convicted individual can face up to 6 months in county jail, or a fine of up to $1,000, or in some cases both.

What Constitutes Public Intoxication?

In California, there are two components necessary to determine whether someone is publicly intoxicated. An individual must be found in a public place under the influence of an intoxicating alcohol, drug, controlled substance, or any combination of those listed. They must also be in a condition where the individual cannot care for their own safety or that of others. Public intoxication also includes when an individual interferes with, obstructs, or prevents the free flow of access to a street, sidewalk, or any other public space.

Related: How to Fight a Public Intoxication Charge

How an Individual Can be Convicted of a Public Intoxication in California

To convict an individual under California Penal Code, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:

An individual was willingly under the influence of intoxicating alcohol, drug, controlled substance, or any combination of those listed; AND,

An individual was found in a public area accessible to all who want to be there; AND,

An individual was unable to act with care upon their own safety or that of others; OR was interfering with the free flow of access to a street, sidewalk, or any other public space.

Penalties for Public Intoxication in California

As previously mentioned, public intoxication is considered a misdemeanor under California law and anyone convicted of such a crime can face up to 6 months in county jail, or a fine of up to $1,000, or in some cases both.

Defenses for a Public Intoxication Charge in California

An individual accused of public intoxication can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense with the help of a criminal defense lawyer, whether that is the lawyer of the individual’s choosing or a lawyer appointed by the state. A successful defense in California against a public intoxication accusation can often reduce or dismiss the charge of the crime.

How to Fight a Public Intoxication Charge

An individual intoxicated in a private place

If an individual is accused of public intoxication, there must be evidence the place in which the individual was arrested was a public space as described by California law.

If an office accuses an individual of public intoxication despite being in a private place, then the charge of public intoxication may be acquitted as it no longer is applicable to the situation.

Insufficient evidence of an individual’s intoxication

If an individual is accused of public intoxication, there must be a field sobriety or blood alcohol test done on them.

If an officer takes an individual in for public intoxication without proof of any substance in their system and assumes the individual’s state of intoxication with no test, then an individual may be acquitted because there is insufficient evidence of their public intoxication at the time of the arrest.

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An individual has Civil Rights violated during the investigation

If an individual is arrested for public intoxication, the individual is entitled to be read their Miranda Rights.

If an officer fails to provide the accused individual with their rights and charges them with public intoxication, even after the individual has become coherent, the individual may be acquitted of such a conviction because the individual was not given the opportunity to navigate the situation with the help of an attorney.

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