Drunk in Public Charges & Penalties
Santa Barbara and the beach communities across Southern California have many street festivals, celebrations, bars, and restaurants where people go to have a good time. Many people enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages when socializing with friends. Excessive alcohol consumption, however, can lead to an arrest on a charge of public drunkenness, under California Penal Code § 647(f).
If you have been arrested for being drunk in public, it does not mean that you are guilty. It's important to vigorously fight a drunk in public charge because a criminal conviction will stay on your record and can adversely affect job and educational opportunities down the road. You should contact a knowledgeable Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney who will work to resolve the charge.
Attorney Steven Andrade is a highly regarded Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor who is knowledgeable about legal defenses to drunk in public charges. Steven understands that things can get out of hand when people are having fun and are caught in the spirit of the moment. He has helped many people charged with alcohol-related offenses get the charges dismissed or resolved with minimum disruption to their lives.
For a free consultation regarding a drunk in public charge, call (805) 962.4944.
How Can a Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Lawyer Help After a Drunk in Public Arrest?
According to California Penal Code § 647(f), public drunkenness is a misdemeanor offense. A conviction may lead to a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine. Repeat offenders who have two previous convictions may be sentenced to up to a year in jail.
A drunk in public charge can happen to ordinary people who are out socializing or attending a public event or street party such as Deltopia. California police must have probable cause to arrest you on a charge of drunk in public. Simply being highly intoxicated is not enough to meet the definition of California's drunk in public law. Often, people who are highly intoxicated unintentionally help the police make their case by refusing to move along promptly when asked to do so, or by acting belligerently.
For prosecutors to convict you of being drunk in public, they must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you were willfully under the influence of alcohol and your intoxication made you unable to exercise proper care for your own safety or the safety of others. Alternately, they may prove that you were so intoxicated that you were interfering with the ability of others to use public streets, sidewalks, and public ways. Disorderly behavior in a bar or restaurant or lobby of an apartment building may lead to an arrest for drunk in public. If you keep calm and cooperate with police, it may persuade them that regardless of how much you have had to drink, you are still in control of yourself and are not endangering your own safety or that of others.
For example, if you got highly intoxicated and were wandering in the street putting yourself at risk of being struck by a car, or you passed out on a public sidewalk so that people had to walk around you or step over you, that could lead to an arrest for drunk in public. Being unable to stay on your feet and sitting on the sidewalk may meet the standard of obstructing free use of a public way. If you were passed out in a car on a public street, that may also meet the definition of drunk in public.
Most people who are charged with a violation of California Penal Code § 647(f) understandably want to avoid having a criminal conviction on their record. A skilled Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney can work on your behalf to get the charge dismissed or get you diverted to a treatment program so you avoid a jail sentence.
If you have a clean record before your arrest, it may be possible to get you enrolled in an alcohol treatment class. That could lead to dismissal of the charges upon successful completion of the class.
Defenses to a Drunk in Public Charge in Santa Barbara, CA
There are a number of valid defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can employ to rebut a charge of public intoxication.
- A police office officer may detain you without directly seeing you commit actions that violate Penal Code 647(f). If the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, then a criminal defense attorney may be able to have any evidence the police collected in an illegal search thrown out. The prosecutor may not have adequate evidence that a violation of the law actually occurred and may be willing to dismiss the charges after evidence is suppressed.
- The definition of a public place under California law is complicated. But if police arrested you in your own home or in a hotel room or other private location and charged you with being drunk in public, it may not meet California's legal standard of public intoxication. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can evaluate the circumstances of your arrest and determine whether you were in a public place at the time of your arrest.
- Under California law, prosecutors also must prove that you got drunk on your own and were not coerced or deceived into getting drunk. If someone slipped something into your drink and caused you to become highly intoxicated, a valid defense could be presented that your condition did not meet the standard set forth by Penal Code § 647(f).
Let a knowledgeable Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney at Andrade Law Offices review the specific facts related to your charge and develop an effective strategy to fight the charge.
Our attorneys, who are former prosecutors now highly regarded for defending individuals facing alcohol-related charges in Southern California, know how to identify weaknesses in the prosecution's case and how to use that to our clients' advantage. We also know how to structure an argument for leniency or alternative sentencing that will find favor with prosecutors and prevent you from serving time in jail. Our attorneys have successfully defended thousands of people on alcohol-related charges in Santa Barbara and adjacent counties.