Skip to Content
When Your Future is On the Line, We're Here to Help
San Luis Obispo Public Intoxication Attorney


California Penal Code 647(F): Public Intoxication Defense Attorney

San Luis Obispo is a growing community that is home to a burgeoning craft beer scene, window to world-class wines, and fun for the whole family. But with all of the exciting beer and wine festivities, it is easy to go overboard. 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.

In order to be convicted of public intoxication in San Luis Obispo, 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 people using the 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 in something you’ve been drinking without your knowledge, you are not willfully drunk.

Next, a public place is a place that is open and accessible to anyone who wishes to go there. The term “public place” has been broadly interpreted by courts, and even sitting in a parked car or on a public bench can satisfy this element of the statute.

Examples of public intoxication include:

  1. After a night of drinking at a bar with friends, you become so intoxicated that you pass out on the sidewalk in front of the bar. Because you are passed out, pedestrians trying to use the sidewalk must walk around you into the street. You could be charged with public intoxication under California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC as long as you voluntarily became intoxicated.
  2. After spending the night consuming alcohol at a bar, you become very angry when the bar cuts you off and throws you out. You become aggressive outside and try to pick fights with random strangers on the sidewalk.

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.


Drunk in public under California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 court fine.

If you are convicted of three public intoxication convictions within a 12-month period, you will be sentenced on the third offense to a minimum of 90 days in jail. Courts can suspend the jail sentence if you enter a 60-day alcohol treatment center.

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 San Luis Obispo can lead to a non-citizen being deported. Some convictions can also make an immigrant “inadmissible”.

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.


In the event that your case proceeds to trial, there are a number of legal defenses available to you and you should discuss all your options with your attorney. They may include:

  • Your alleged drunken behavior did not occur in a public place;
  • The prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove that you were intoxicated; or
  • Before, or at the time of arrest, your civil rights were violated by the police.

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 San Luis Obispo. 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 areas. 

Continue Reading Read Less

The Right Firm Makes a Difference

Why Clients Choose Us
  • Aggressive & Compassionate Representation
    You are our number one priority in and out of the courtroom.
  • Former Prosecutor on Your Team

    Work with an experienced former prosecutor who knows both sides.

  • Providing Service in Spanish
    Criminal defense provided by a Spanish-speaking team.
  • Offering 100% Free Consults
    Talk through all of your legal options during a free consultation.

What Clients Are Saying

  • A former prosecutor, Sandy is a skilled litigator who understands both sides of the criminal justice system, which is a tremendous asset. While we hope never to be in a similar situation again, we can recommend Sandy without hesitation.
    - Ann S.
  • A great relief and reassurance to anyone potentially facing criminal charges.
    - S.A.
  • To say that Horowitz is a great lawyer is an understatement. I would highly recommend him to anyone dealing with a legal issue.
    - Haley S.
  • In addition to being highly intelligent and professional, he is incredibly empathetic and kind, which helps when dealing with life’s unpleasant situations.
    - Eli S.