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

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

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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 another 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

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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