It may be legal to consume alcoholic drinks, but it is unlawful to be guilty of public drunkenness. If you are arrested for being drunk in public, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and face criminal consequences.
Alcohol is readily available. You can purchase it at a grocery store, you can buy it at a liquor store, and you can have wine with your dinner or have a couple of drinks at a bar. However, if you consume too much alcohol and appear visibly drunk while in a public place, you can be charged with public intoxication, which is also known as disorderly conduct, or under the influence in public.
California Penal Code 647f makes it unlawful to be drunk while in a public place, or under the influence of drugs while in a public place. Obviously, people consume alcohol all the time in our society. Drinking is one of the ways that friends and loved ones come together to share a good meal or some nice conversation. In order for a person to be arrested for public drunkenness they must be so intoxicated that they cannot exercise care for their own safety or the safety of others.
In other words, if you were walking down the street and you were slightly buzzed but walking and talking just fine, you shouldn’t be guilty of this crime. However, if you were falling down obviously drunk, slurring your words and passing out, then you could be arrested for being drunk in public. The term “public" would include a city street, the sidewalk, a bar, nightclub, a restaurant, a hotel or any other place open to the public.
If you were arrested for this, you may have not been aware that you were committing a crime. It will be up to the prosecution to prove that you were so overly intoxicated that you were unable to care for your own safety and that of others around you. Public intoxication and disorderly conduct are charged as a misdemeanor offense, which could result in jail time, fines and probation. However minor the charges might sound, they cannot be taken lightly. You could be sentenced to jail for as long as 6 months and have to carry the burden of a permanent criminal record.
A permanent criminal record will affect future employment since an arrest would come up on a background check. This could cause you to lose future jobs, and therefore, future opportunities. In many cases an experienced attorney will be able to secure an alternative sentence for a client facing a drunk in public charge. If this is your first offense, your lawyer may get the prosecution and the judge to agree to AA classes in place of jail sentencing. It will be up to a skilled attorney to get your charges dismissed, they may be able to do this by helping explain to the prosecution that you are a productive citizen who does not deserve such harsh punishment. Don’t delay another moment; contact a criminal defense attorney in order to give you the best chances of avoiding a criminal conviction.