California Penal Code 647(f) prohibits being "drunk in public". Simply put, you are "drunk in public" under California law.
The preamble to 647 states, "Except as provided in subdivision (l), every person who
commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a
misdemeanor...." Subdivision I [probably does not apply to you...it applies to other acts that amount to a felony.]
If your level of intoxication makes you unable to exercise care for your safety or for the safety of others, or your level of intoxication interferes with, obstructs, or prevents others from using streets, sidewalks, or other "public ways".1 A conviction for "drunk in public" can trigger probation, fines, and even incarceration. Worse still, a conviction will go on your permanent criminal record, and can be seen by prospective employers and licensing agencies. Therefore, it is advisable that you do everything possible to avoid this conviction.
Fortunately, there are a variety of defenses that a skilled California criminal defense lawyer could present on your behalf in an effort to reduce or possibly even dismiss your Penal Code 647(f) charge.
This is also an interesting charge because it can be rather hard to prove, unless of course, you had a beer can or worse a bottle of liquor.
What was the level of intoxication? How can they prove how intoxicated you were? Were you given field sobriety tests? Blood test? Breath test? I suspect the case can be reduced to an infraction and you will be given a deal to get you to plead guilty. Maybe you will get a fine of no more than $250.00 or so but when you add the court costs and penalty assessment, your total could be at least $1,000.00
I am licensed to practice in the state of California. I handle cases from Sacramento to San Diego. I have handled cases in Federal District courts from Alaska and throughout the United States. My comments and opinions are based on California law and are based on the limited information provided in the question. Legal questions are usually fact specific and a few facts can and often does change the opinion I would give. It is better to consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction (your geographic area) and provide specific details regarding your case in private. You would get more specific advice. The contents of the conversations with your attorney are confidential and are protected from being revealed. The statements made in this public forum (AVVO) are not confidential and could be revealed. Therefore, you must be very careful in the details you provide. Do not disclose information that could be a crime or that could be used in order to prove a crime was committed. If you are in California and want to clarify any of my answers, feel free to contact me.
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