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Montecito Public Intoxication

Montecito Public Intoxication Defense Attorney

Montecito, California, has always been a magnet for the rich and famous. Located in Santa Barbara County, a 10-minute drive from the town center, its beach chic vibe and tree-shaded lanes have attracted starlets and socialites from all over the US. It can be a great place to gather with friends and have a few drinks however, alcohol consumption in public, if taken too far, can lead to arrest on a charge of public intoxication.

California Penal Code 647f defines public intoxication as being willfully under the influence while you are in a public area. You must also be intoxicated to the point where you cannot care for your safety or the safety of others around you, and/or to the point that you have become a hindrance or obstruction to other people using the public walkways, such as pavements or streets.

If you have been arrested for being intoxicated in public, it does not mean that you are guilty. It’s important to vigorously fight a public intoxication charge because a criminal conviction will stay on your record and can adversely affect job and educational opportunities down the road.

A former Prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Offices in Santa Barbara and San Diego Counties, Sanford Horowitz and his legal team, will offer you a free consultation, investigate the evidence against you, and recommend practical steps to achieve the best possible results in your case.

The Act of Public Intoxication

In order to convict you of public intoxication in Montecito, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant was willfully under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance,
  • When the defendant was under the influence, he or she was in a public place, and either
  • The defendant was unable to exercise care for his or her own safety, or the safety of others, OR
  • Because the defendant was under the influence, he or she interfered with, obstructed, or became a hindrance to individuals using public walkways, such as pavements or streets.

Looking at the above list, you might notice that state law requires that you have willfully become drunk in order to qualify for a conviction on this charge. If someone has put a substance into something that you’ve been drinking without your knowledge, you are not willfully drunk and therefore are not guilty.

Next, California law defines a public place as any area outside of a home in which a stranger is free to walk. This can be anything from a sidewalk to a restaurant, stadium, pub, nightclub, a hallway in a hotel or apartment building, or in a car parked on a street. This also includes a front lawn of a home, but not a backyard.

Examples of public intoxication include:

  • After a bartender cuts Will off because he is intoxicated, Will grabs a stool and throws it across the bar.
  • While drunk, Miles lies down on a set of train tracks and fights off a passerby that tries to move him.
  • Linda, under the influence of cocaine, passes out on a sidewalk and thereby forces people walking by to step over her.

Public Intoxication Penalties

A violation of 647f is charged as a misdemeanor in Montecito (as opposed to a felony or an infraction). The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Often times an attorney can negotiate to dismiss the case upon the completion of 10 or 20 Alcohol Anonymous meetings.  However, most people are eligible for diversion, which is where a defendant avoids formal sentencing, and upon completion of the diversion terms, the case is dismissed.

Certain exceptions apply, but most patrons are eligible to participate in pretrial diversion under Penal Code 1000(a). In January 2018, the California Legislature amended section 1000(a) allowing most people charged with public intoxication to avoid a guilty or no contest plea by continuing the case during its pretrial stage. In the meantime, you will be required to complete AA meetings or perform community service. Upon completion of your obligations, the court will dismiss your case.

If you are under the age of 21 and you are convicted for public intoxication, you can also lose your driver’s license for one year (California Vehicle Code Section 13202.52). If you do not have a driver’s license, the court will order the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to delay issuing you a driver’s license for one year subsequent to the time you become legally eligible to drive.

A public intoxication conviction may also have negative immigration consequences. Under the United States immigration law, certain kinds of criminal convictions in Montecito can lead to a non-citizen being deported. Some convictions can also make an immigrant “inadmissible”.

The major categories of “deportable” or “inadmissible” crimes are:

  • crimes of moral turpitude,
  • aggravated felonies,
  • controlled substance (drug) offenses,
  • firearm offenses, and
  • domestic violence crimes

If a defendant violated this statute because he was intoxicated via drug use or by using a controlled substance, then there may be grounds for deportation or inadmissibility.

Additionally, if you willfully resist, delay, or obstruct a public officer in a discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of the officer, you are guilty of resisting arrest PC 148(a)(1). The crime of resisting, obstructing, or delaying an officer is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty, you may be punished by up to one year in jail.

Fighting a Public Intoxication Charge

If you are accused of a crime under this statute, then you can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed altogether.

Three common defenses to this crime are to argue:

  • it was not a public place
  • civil rights were violated,
  • involuntary intoxication, and/or
  • no interference or obstruction.


The term “in public” has a very specific definition under this law and has been interpreted by the courts in certain ways. It is always a legal defense to PC 647f accusations for an accused to say that, although intoxicated, they were not in a public place. You may argue, for instance, that you were drunk in your own home.


You must have your rights read to you in order to be convicted. While police have a limited excuse for not reading an arrestee their rights when the suspect cannot comprehend them, the excuse ends when the suspect is capable of understanding them. At that point police must read the suspect their Miranda Rights, otherwise, the civil rights of the arrestee are violated.


You must be “willfully under the influence” to be guilty of public intoxication in Montecito. If you were drunk because you accidently ingested drugs or alcohol, or did so otherwise involuntarily, then you are not guilty of public intoxication.


You may be convicted if you interfered with or obstructed the free use of a street, sidewalk, or other public way, while intoxicated. If you can prove that you did not interfere with a public way, then you will have a strong defense. For example, if you were so drunk that you fell asleep behind a dumpster in an alley, you were not obstructing any public area.



It’s perfectly legal to be drunk in public or private as long as your behavior isn’t affecting the safety or enjoyment of others. However, a private place, such as a residence or a backyard, does not qualify for a public intoxication charge.


A conviction for public intoxication does not have an effect on the convicted party’s gun rights. Note that some felony and misdemeanor convictions will result in the defendant losing his rights to own a gun in California. Also note that some misdemeanors carry a 10-year firearm ban.

But a conviction for being drunk in public will not result in a person losing ownership of his gun or being banned from the gun for a period of time.


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