Can You Be Charged in San Francisco with Being “Drunk in Public” on Private Property?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Dec 16, 2015 | 0 Comments


If you are severely intoxicated on private property in San Francisco, can you be charged with being “drunk in public” under California's public intoxication statute?

If the private property is “open to the public,” the answer is: absolutely.

Private Property “Open to the Public”

California Penal Code Section 647(f) makes it a crime to be in any “public place” under the influence of intoxicating liquor:

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… interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way.

A “public place” for purposes of California's “drunk in public” statute means:

  • an area open to the public, or
  • an alley, plaza, park, driveway, or parking lot, or
  • an automobile, whether moving or not, or
  • a building open to the general public, including one which serves food or drink, or provides entertainment, or
  • the doorways and entrances to a building or dwelling, or
  • the grounds enclosing a building or dwelling.

Penal Code Section 653.20

Under this definition, being severely drunk on a number of different types of private property in San Francisco can get you charged with being drunk in public. Restaurants, bars, theatres, concert halls, stores, and shopping malls are all private property but the fact that they are “open to the public” makes you subject to the public intoxication law.

But also note that you can be arrested for public intoxication at a private residence or building ins San Francisco not open to the public. If you are in the lobby or hallway of an apartment building (“doorways and entrances to a building or dwelling”), or the front yard of a friend's house (“grounds enclosing a building or dwelling”), for example, you can be arrested and charged with public intoxication under Section 647(f).

If you have been charged with the crime of being “drunk in public” in San Francisco, please give one of our experienced San Francisco criminal defense attorneys a call to discuss your situation and explore your options. (Refer to our article, "Different standards for DUI and public intoxication in California.")

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Regain peace of mind...

Our defense attorneys understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most difficult times of your life. Rely on us to zealously and discreetly protect your rights and to fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370