Knowing Your Defense in a Public Intoxication Case – California Penal Code 647(f)

29 July 2014

If you are facing a public intoxication charge, it is going to be important for you to be ready to have a strong defense.  In figuring out what defense to utilize, it is important to know the elements that are required to be proven for you to be convicted of being drunk in public.


The elements are as follows:

  1. You were under the influence of alcohol/drug
  2. You were in a public place
  3. You were unable to look after your own safety or safety of others


The three elements listed are each required to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor for you to be convicted.  If you can disprove one element, then by definition you did not commit the crime of public intoxication.


The first thing you must do is review the police report to see what conduct has been alleged.  You will then know what evidence will be used to try to prove each of the elements against you.  After reviewing the police report, you will then have a good idea on which element(s) to attack in your defense.


The first two elements are fairly straightforward.  You can get your charges dismissed if you can show you were not under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance.  However, you do not necessarily have to be drunk or high to be considered under the influence.


You can also get your charge dismissed if you can show that you were in a private location.  Some examples of successful defenses that I have used was that the location alleged was in an apartment complex’s common area.  It was an area that only residences had access to.  I was able to make an argument that this was not a public location and my client got his charge dismissed.


The third element is the most common element to attack.  The argument is that you can actually be drunk and be in public and that is not a crime so long as you can care for your own safety and the safety of others.  This is where having witnesses, video surveillance, and your own recollection can help you overcome an officer’s claim that you were too drunk to care for your safety.


The best defense will always depend on the facts and circumstances of the case.  Having an attorney will always better your chances of getting your charges dismissed.


If you are facing a public intoxication charge, call the Law Offices of Nam Q. Doan | OC Legal Defense today at (714)284-3626.   For more information, read the Public Intoxication section.