When most people think of alcohol or drug-related offenses, they tend to think of driving under the influence or drug possession -- among a few other crimes. A lot of people do not think about public intoxication. What is it? What does it take to for prosecuting attorneys to achieve a conviction on such a charge in California?
If you are out in public and acting in a way that others might find offensive or out of character, to the point that you visibly seem drunk or otherwise impaired, police may arrest you for public intoxication. The primary purpose of this charge is to keep people from hurting themselves or others in a public setting. In California, this constitutes a misdemeanor offense with penalties that include fines and possibly jail time.
To be convicted...
To be convicted on a public intoxication charge, it is necessary for prosecuting attorneys to establish three specific elements in your case. These elements are:
- Proof you were actually intoxicated
- Proof you harmed someone or caused a disturbance
- Proof the event in question occurred in a public space
In other words, to be successfully charged and convicted, there needs to be sufficient evidence that you were willfully intoxicated in a public place and were acting in a way that others around you feared for their or your safety or your actions made it impossible for members of the public to utilize sidewalks, streets or any other public way.
A few defense options may work in your favor when facing a public intoxication charge. First, you may claim that you were not actually intoxicated and that your actions did not suggest that you were drunk -- otherwise known as an affirmative defense. You will need to prove that your actions before your arrest were within reason and not the result of impairment.
Second, if you were at home or any other private place, your case will lack a required element and the charge will not stand. If an officer demanded that you leave the private space and enter a public space and then arrested you for public intoxication, you may be able to successfully fight the charge.
Finally, third, you may be able to claim a lack of willful intoxication. If someone forced you to drink or take drugs and then took you to a public place where you acted out, and you can prove that, you may be able to have your case dismissed.
Criminal charges of any kind can be difficult to fight, but with the right assistance and a solid defense plan, it may be possible to have your public intoxication case thrown out or at least minimize any consequences associated with a conviction.