Drunk in Public – California Penal Code 647(f)PC

| Police Blotter | July 13, 2017

Recently, actor Shia LaBeouf was arrested in Georgia after a drunken altercation with bystanders and police. According to witnesses, the actor asked someone nearby if he could bum a cigarette. The bystander said no, and LaBeouf responded by verbally assaulting them. Police were called and officers told the actor to leave the premises, but LaBeouf declined and turned his profanity-laced tirade against them instead.

The incident was recorded on a responding officer’s body cam, and it clearly shows LaBeouf acting belligerently to both police and bystanders and shouting profanities. He was booked on charges of public drunkenness and may be facing additional charges of disorderly conduct and obstruction.

Drunk in public is illegal pretty much everywhere in the United States, including California where it is covered under California Penal Code 647(f) PC. It has a somewhat misleading name, as it is not in and of itself a crime to be drunk in a public place in California. To be charged with violating this law, an individual must meet one of two criteria:

They must demonstrate they are unable to care for the safety of themselves or others, or

The individual must obstruct, interfere with, or prevent others from using “public ways” such as streets and sidewalks


The first of these criteria is pretty open-ended, and yet neither of them expressly states the B.A.C. required to be “drunk.” That being the case, a person who is drunk in a public space, even drunk enough to pass out, is not necessarily going to be found guilty of violating 647(f) PC. It also means that a person who isn’t all that drunk could be charged with a violation — it all depends on the behavior one exhibits while in public after consuming alcohol.

Penal Code 647(f) PC is a misdemeanor in California, with the possible penalties of misdemeanor probation, up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

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About Robin Sandoval

Robin Sandoval is a California Licensed Bail Bondsman and owner of SCV Bail Bonds. Robin writes blogs and articles to help increase community awareness of the bail industry. If you have questions or want to suggest a topic, email robin@scvbailbonds.com, visit www.scvbailbonds.com or call 661-299-2245.

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