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Is Public Intoxication a Misdemeanor in California?

Everyone knows that we’re not supposed to drink and drive. Many of us have gotten really good about making sure that whenever we go out to have a good time, we have a plan for getting home that doesn’t involve us driving. In some situations, we simply decide to walk home.

While walking home while you’re drunk is preferable to you driving while under the influence in California, you should be aware that it’s still not the safest option. All of the alcohol you’ve consumed slows your response time and dulls your reflexes. Not only does this make you an attractive target to any criminals you may encounter on your walk, but there’s also a chance a patrol officer could notice you staggering home and decide to charge you with public intoxication.

That’s right. Being extremely drunk while in public is a crime.

California even has a law that specifically deals with public intoxication. It’s Penal Code 647f PC. It clearly states that anyone:
“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 they are unable to exercise care for their own safety or the safety of others, or by reason of 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.

(g) If a person has violated subdivision (f), a peace officer, if reasonably able to do so, shall place the person, or cause the person to be placed, in civil protective custody. The person shall be taken to a facility, designated pursuant to Section 5170 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, for the 72-hour treatment and evaluation of inebriates. A peace officer may place a person in civil protective custody with that kind and degree of force authorized to effect an arrest for a misdemeanor without a warrant. A person who has been placed in civil protective custody shall not thereafter be subject to any criminal prosecution or juvenile court proceeding based on the facts giving rise to this placement. This subdivision does not apply to the following persons:

(1) A person who is under the influence of any drug, or under the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and any drug.”

Public intoxication in California is a misdemeanor. If you’re convicted, the maximum sentence is:

  • Six months in a county jail
  • A $1,000 fine

A public intoxication conviction may be embarrassing but it’s not an offense that will negatively impact your gun rights. It’s also possible to have the public intoxication charge expunged.