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California’s disorderly conduct statute is broad and covers a wide range of subjects that are considered traditionally deviant or against society. Typically, other states may use “disorderly conduct” as a name for a catch-all offense like California’s “disturbing the peace” statute. However, CA’s disorderly conduct statute covers 9 distinct offenses, one of which is public intoxication. For help with your disorderly conduct or public intoxication charges, contact the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s Ventura criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation.

What is the Difference Between Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct in CA?

California’s public intoxication statute is actually a subsection of its disorderly conduct statute. Many states treat these as separate offenses under different laws, but California considers public intoxication one type of disorderly conduct.

In many other states, disorderly conduct covers a wide range of disruptive activities. These laws are usually vaguely worded to cover things like fighting, dangerous activities, and loud or obnoxious language. In California, these things are usually charged under the disturbing the peace statute, instead.

Disorderly conduct under CA Penal Code 647 covers 9 specific offenses:

  1. Performing or soliciting sex acts in a public place
  2. Soliciting or agreeing to prostitution
  3. Aggressively “begging or soliciting alms”
  4. Waiting in a public restroom to solicit sex acts
  5. Staying overnight at a building without the owner’s permission
  6. Public intoxication
  7. Loitering and prowling
  8. Peeking into a window while loitering or prowling and
  9. Peeping or recording someone in a location where they have “a reasonable expectation of privacy” or taking invasive, private photos without their permission.

These offenses are considered “disorderly” by the California legislature and are grouped under the same act. However, “public intoxication” is one of these specific offenses, complete with its own definition, penalties, and procedures for arrest.

What is “Drunk in Public” under CA Law?

Under subsection (f) of CA Penal Code 647, it is illegal to be drunk in public. This does not apply to everyone who happens to be drunk in a public place, or else it would be impossible to go outside to get home after a night out at a bar or a party. Instead, this crime only applies to some situations where the person is creating a public nuisance or becomes a danger to themselves.

Under 647(f), an intoxicated person commits this crime if he or she is “in a condition that he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others.” This means that you can be drunk in a bar and you can be drunk on the way home, but you cannot be so drunk that you risk your own safety.

If police find you stumbling and falling down, walking into traffic, or otherwise risking your physical safety, they may stop you. In some cases, you may be given a warning and asked to take a taxi or Uber home. In others, police might arrest you.

Alternatively, you can also face public intoxication charges if you are so drunk that you are blocking a street, sidewalk, or another public pathway. Laying down or passing out in the middle of the street or a sidewalk is problematic, and this can obstruct access for others who may be afraid to disturb you or accidentally run you over. Police will usually arrest you for this kind of behavior, especially if you are unconscious.

Once arrested for public intoxication, police will often keep you in the “drunk tank” or take you for medical care. Penal Code 647(g) refers to this as “civil protective custody.” This custody is not like arrest for a crime, and you should not be cuffed and thrown into a cruiser, booked, and put in general population. Instead, you may be kept in a separate room or taken to a hospital for care and observation.

Once arrested, you should not be charged with other crimes your drunken behavior elicits, such as offenses for threats or loud, disruptive behavior. However, if police believe you have a risk of escaping, that you committed a felony, or you are under the effects of drugs, this protection against further charges does not stand.

When police arrest you for public intoxication and take you into protective custody, they should not use excessive force. Penal Code 647(g) specifically limits the force an officer can use, and police should be held to strict observance of these standards.

Ventura, California Defense Attorney for Public Drunkenness Charges

If you or a loved one was charged with public intoxication or another form of disorderly conduct in California, call The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today. Our criminal defense attorneys have decades of legal experience representing the accused and fighting to get their charges dropped and dismissed. For a free consultation on your case, call our law offices today or contact us online. Our number is (805) 585-5056.

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