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Penal Code 647(f) – Drunk In Public

California Penal Code 647(f) – Drunk in Public   This penal code section is commonly referred to as “drunk in public” or disorderly conduct. However, the term “drunk in public” is somewhat as a misnomer because the statute does not merely prohibit being intoxicated in a public area. Rather the description of “disorderly conduct” is a better fit because it properly implies that the aside from being drunk, a person must engage in some sort of anti-social or unsafe action to be charged with PC 647(b).

The actual text from the statute reads as follows:

647.  Except as provided in subdivision (l), every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor:... (f) Who is found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, controlled substance, or toluene, in a condition that he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others, or by reason of his or her being under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, or toluene, interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way.

To successfully prosecute a person under this section, the prosecution has to prove the following elements under the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard:

(1)That the defendant committed a willful act of ingesting or using alcohol, drugs, toulene or a combination of such substances,

(2)The defendant was under the influence of one of all of these substances,

(3)The defendant was in an area open to the public, AND

(4)The defendant either acted in a manner demonstrating he or she was unable to maintain his or her own safety or that of others, OR that the defendant blocked/restricted the use of a public passage way such as a street or sidewalk.

As used in the statute, the term “willful” means that the defendant purposefully did something, i.e. not the result of an accident. The concept of a “public area” covers any area that members of the general public may enter at will, i.e. a city park. In California, it has been established that a person sitting in his/her own car while parked on a public street is still considered to be in a “public area.” People v Belanger, 243 Cal.App.2d 654, 657 (1966).

Resources & References:


Health & Safety Code 11550

Vehicle Code 23152(a)

Vehicle Code 23152(b)

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