PUBLIC INTOXICATION IN CALIFORNIA
Arrested for Public Intoxication?
Although P.C. 647(f) is usually charged as a Misdemeanor, it is often handled on the Infraction calendar in court if it is the sole charge. Most cases involve a person who is intoxicated and asleep on the sidewalk or at a Metro stop. Since no driving is involved, a lawyer can often negotiate a dismissal with the prosecutor or Judge in return for some AA classes. Which is why you should NEVER plead guilty before consulting a lawyer.
PENALTIES FOR CONVICTION OF PUBLIC INTOXICATION ( PENAL CODE 647(f) )
bargPublic Intoxication Penalties
1. Misdemeanor Charge
Public intoxication is considered a misdemeanor in California under Penal Code 647(f).
If convicted, you may be required to pay a fine, with a maximum amount of $1,000 plus penalty assesment.
You may be placed on informal probation.
4. County Jail
You could face a maximum of 6 months in county jail.
5. Repeat Offenders
If you are convicted of Penal Code 647(f) three times within a 12-month period, you face a minimum of 90 days in a county jail. However, the court can suspend that sentence if you enter a 60-day alcohol treatment facility.
6. Potential Plea Alternative
If you cannot earn a dismissal outright, “Disturbing The Peace” under Penal Code section 415 is a related but lesser offense that can be a plea bargaining alternative. This offense does not necessarily involve someone being intoxicated and can be helpful for someone seeking to avoid conviction on an alcohol-related charge,. Under PC 415, you face a maximum sentence of 90 days in county jail and a maximum fine of $400 plus penalty assessment.
Please note that these penalties can vary based on the circumstances of the case, and it’s always recommended that you consult with a legal professional for advice tailored to your specific situation.
Type of Penalties
In California, if you are convicted of a DUI, you may face the following penalties:
A DUI conviction often involves hefty fines, made up of a base fine plus a 4-5x penalty multiplier.
A DUI is at least a misdemeanor punishable by jail time, which increases with the amount of priors and/or injury caused.
Just being arrested for a DUI will trigger automatic consequences on your ability to drive. Actions taken by the court and DMV can be overlapping and difficult to navigate.
A conviction for DUI will require attendance in a minimum 3-month alcohol program. You may also need to attend such a program to maintain your ability to drive.
Ignition Interlock Device
The IID device will randomly require a alcohol-less breath sample for the car to start and continue runing. It is often required after a DUI conviction and/or an adverse ruling at the DMV Hearing.
This can be ordered/bargained as part of the sentence, or as an alternative to paying fines. Generally it consists of lighter work than Community Labor, but more hours.
Also known as Work Release, this is often required for a DUI with accident, and can sometimes be an alternative to jail (8 hrs. = 1 day jail). An example is picking up trash on the freeway. It consists of harder work than community service, but fewer hours.
An ankle bracelet is often negotiated as a subsitute to jail where the defendant has medical issues or might lose employment due to a long sentence. The wearer is allowed to go to work, but must return home by a certain hour. The device can also detect alcohol.
If convicted of a first DUI, the mandatory period of probation is 3 years. Repeat offenders may face up to 5 years of probation. This probation is informal (ie. no probation officer) unless the DUI is a felony.
PUBLIC INTOXICATION DEFENSE STRATEGIES
Elements of the offense for public intoxication
1. Willful Intoxication
The person must be willfully under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances. This means that the person chose to consume the substance and become intoxicated.
2. Public Location
The person must be in a public location while under the influence. This can include streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces.
3. Danger to self
The person’s behavior under the influence must be a danger to themselves or other people. This can include actions like wandering into traffic, starting fights, or causing disturbances.
4. Interference with Public Use
The person’s behavior must interfere with, obstruct, or prevent people from freely using a street, sidewalk, or any other public space. This can include actions like blocking sidewalks or causing disturbances that prevent others from using public spaces.
PUBLIC INTOXICATION DEFENSES
Effective Defenses against Public Intoxication Charges
1. Lack of probable cause
If you were detained without sufficient probable cause and arrested, an attorney may be able to get the case dismissed.
2. You were not a danger to yourself or others
If it can be proven that your behavior was not a danger to you or other people, this could be a valid defense.
3. You did not interfere with others
If you were not obstructing or preventing people from freely using a street, sidewalk, or any other public space, this could be used as a defense.
4. No Miranda Warning
Miranda must be given if there is post-arrest interrogation. We pinpoint the time of the actual arrest/cuffing and try to exclude statements made thereafter absent Miranda.
5. You were not in a public place
The charge of public intoxication requires the individual to be in a public place. If the incident occurred in a private location, such as your own home or a hotel room, this could be used as a defense.
6. You were not that intoxicated
The charge of public intoxication requires that you were so intoxicated that you could not care for your own safety or the safety of others, or that you were obstructing public walkways. If it can be proven that you were not that intoxicated, this could be a defense.
7. You were not willfully intoxicated
The prosecution must prove that you were willfully under the influence. If you were unknowingly drugged or did not intentionally consume alcohol or drugs, this could be a valid defense.
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Freaqent Asked Questions
I just picked up a DUI and I blew over the legal limit. I’m guilty, so what’s the point of hiring a lawyer?
First of all, being over the legal limit is just the starting point, and all DUI cases that are won involve people who are at or above the legal limit (or they refused). If you were under the legal limit, you wouldn’t even have been cited. Second, just because you feel you are guilty, it doesn’t mean you need to have the full brunt of the consequences crash down on you. With proper representation, things like jail time, license suspension, fines, probation, alcohol school…etc. can be reduced or eliminated, guilty or not.
If I hire a lawyer, is it possible that I will never need to appear in court?
Yes. If you are facing a misdemeanor DUI and nothing else, a lawyer can appear on your behalf without you throughout the entire proceeding. At the DMV, if your testimony is required, you can testify telephonically. If there are any forms you need to sign for court, your lawyer can mail these to you and have you sign in front of a notary. All paperwork that you need can be mailed to you by your lawyer.
I received a letter or voice message from law enforcement asking me to contact them regarding an incident. What should I do？
You should absolutely NOT contact law enforcement yourself. Most of the time this kind of letter is sent when there is not enough evidence yet to charge you, and they are hoping you will help them out by incriminating yourself. Always contact a lawyer first, and if necessary, speak only through counsel.
I was arrested for DUI. Do I need SR-22?
SR-22 is just another term for “Proof of Insurance.” Your insurance company needs to file it for you for 3 years only upon conviction of a DUI.
CALIFORNIA DUI ATTORNEY JEFF YEH
Call THE DUI SPECIALIST
If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence, it’s crucial that you reach out to a DUI specialist right away. As a dedicated DUI lawyer, I have personally handled thousands of drunk driving cases, leveraging my expertise to defend my clients effectively. I know the prosecutors and Judges and how they conduct their business in the various courts throughout California. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling me directly at (213) 446 – 2495.