Public intoxication, also referred to in the California Penal Code as "drunk in public" has, in a sense, a misleading name.
Public intoxication (a.k.a. Drunk in Public) is certainly not the most serious crime law enforcement handles. However, for the defendant this charge can be very damaging if not handled quickly and carefully and, in many cases, as quietly as possible.
Employers, schools, administrative agencies, and others tend to see an arrest for public intoxication as a sign of poor judgment and a direct reflection of the defendant’s decision-making ability. In reality, many Drunk in Public charges are unsubstantiated either because the defendant was not actually drunk or law enforcement failed to properly investigate. Unfortunately, once those handcuffs snap into place, the stigma is there and the fight to clear your good name begins.
If you or someone you care about is arrested for public intoxication, follow these simple rules:
1. REMAIN SILENT
Other than to give basic identification information, like name, date of birth, and social security number, nobody in the United States can be forced to answer police questions intended to elicit an incriminating response. The police will tell you that they just want to fill in blanks on the report or they just need some answers so they can let you go. Remain silent.
Every question they ask is intended to get an answer that will help convict you.
When asked ANY questions, simply tell the officer, “I am invoking my right to remain silent and I will not answer any questions without an attorney present.”
2. REMAIN CALM
Being arrested and going to jail sucks. However, arguing, fighting with, or challenging law enforcement will only make it worse. Like Chinese finger-cuffs, the harder you fight, the more powerful the police become. Always remember that respect will win the day. If they tell you to stand there, sit here, face this way, or look that way; you do it. And you do it quietly.
3. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY
At the first opportunity, contact an attorney to guide you through the rest of the criminal justice process.
Being intoxicated in a public place is only part of what is involved in committing this crime. The first additional criteria that can constitute you "drunk in public" is being so drunk as to render yourself incapable of exercising due caution for the safety of yourself and others. A second criteria that, in combination with being drunk in a public place, renders you guilty of this crime is being so drunk as to obstruct or interfere with the free use of sidewalks, streets, or any other "public ways."
An overly aggressive law enforcement officer may well have wrongly arrested you on public intoxication charges and misinformed you that you were guilty of that crime. You cannot, however, be convicted for merely having been drunk in a public area. You must also have committed one of the two additional actions noted above.
Three illustrations of valid drunk in public charges are the following:
- A man in a bar who is already drunk is refused more liquor by the bartender. In response, he threatens to hurt the bartender and then hurls a bar stool at him. The bartender dodges the stool and one of its legs nearly hits another customer in the head. This man's drunkenness caused him to act in a way that threatened the safety of others.
- A woman who is thoroughly intoxicated lies down to relax on a set of train tracks. As people pass by and warn her of the impending danger, she laughs at them hysterically. This woman's drunkenness caused her to act in a way that threatened her own safety.
- A man high on heroin passes out on a public sidewalk, forcing passersby to step over him or to walk into the street to get around him. This man's drunkenness interfered with the free use of "public ways."
In California, public intoxication is a misdemeanor offense that can lead to a six-month term in the county jail. It can also incur a $1,000 fine. In many cases, a judge may decide to treat you leniently, only sentencing you to probation instead of jail time. Nonetheless, a conviction will be a black spot on your record and could potentially affect your eligibility in the eyes of some employers and licensing agencies. Thus, fighting a drunk in public charge is well worth the effort.
For those accused of public intoxication in Long Beach, CA, there are a number of effective defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney will be able to use in the courtroom. These efforts could get the charges brought against you reduced or even dismissed entirely.
Some of the most common defense strategies that might be used in your behalf include:
- You were not in a public place
- It cannot be proved that you were intoxicated
- Your rights were violated by police during the arrest or investigation
At the Law Office of David J. Givot, we do more than just help you through. We will carefully and methodically examine the charges and the evidence against you. If law enforcement has not done everything necessary to convict you in front of a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, then we will attack the charges from every available angle to achieve the best possible result.
Even more importantly, we will vigilantly consider how any resolution will affect your professional, educational, and/or personal future.
With You Every Step of the Way
As your attorney, I will work directly with you. I will give you an honest assessment of your case, inform you of your options, explain the legal process as it applies to you and aggressively fight for you at trial.
Rest assured, you are not alone. I will be at your side the entire time.
Free Initial Consultation
I can help you fight a public intoxication charge. Contact me online or call my office locally at 562-735-0960 or toll free at 888-293-0396.
I accept credit cards and am available for weekend/evening appointments. I represent clients in Long Beach and all the surrounding Southern California communities.
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