Enjoying a night out on the town can be a wonderful way to unwind after a long and stressful work week. But as the festivities linger on, it is entirely too easy to get carried away. As a result, many late night party goers suddenly find themselves under arrest and charged with drunk in public. When this occurs, you will need an aggressive and compassionate defense attorney on your side.

Disorderly Conduct – The Facts

According to California Penal Code § 647(f), anyone who is found intoxicated or under the influence of drugs in a public place and is unable to care for their own safety or the safety of others can be arrested for disorderly conduct. In addition, if due to intoxication or drug use a person interferes, obstructs or prevents the free use of any public street, sidewalk or way, that person can be arrested for disorderly conduct. This means that even if you have one too many drinks and fall asleep on the sidewalk outside of your own home, you could be arrested and charged with drunk in public.

Disorderly Conduct – What happens next?

Once you are arrested for disorderly conduct, the arresting officer is responsible for placing you in civil protective custody. According to Section 5170 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, anyone arrested for drunk in public can be taken to a 72-hour treatment and evaluation center for inebriates assuming that certain exceptions are not met. If the officer does not take you to a treatment center instead of jail, you may have a complete defense to your drunk in public charge. Also, because disorderly conduct is only a misdemeanor, arresting officers have a responsibility to use a minimum and appropriate level of force.

Drunk in Public When You are Under 21:

If you are under the age of 21, you are legally not allowed to consume or possess alcoholic beverages of any kind. A person under 21 is subject to an arrest for drunk in public just as a person over 21 is. In addition, if you are under 21 and are caught drinking or possessing alcohol in any public area, you can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor—even if you are not disorderly. Possession of alcohol by a minor is commonly known as a “minor in possession” or a “MIP.” [California Business and Professions Code § 25662].

While a “minor in possession” charge may not seem like a serious offense, if convicted, it could cost you your license for one year, hundreds of dollars in fines as well as long hours of community service. In addition, if you are arrested for drinking alcohol while under the age of 21, the state requires that your community service be done at an alcohol or drug treatment facility or at a local coroner’s office.

The penalties for underage possession of alcohol are:

* First-time offenders: $250 fine and 24 -32 hours of community service
* Second-time offenders: $500 fine and 36 – 48 hours of community service

If you are arrested for disorderly conduct or underage drinking, it is important to contact a California defense attorney immediately. Even though these offenses may seem relatively minor, any criminal mark on your record can have long lasting consequences. In some cases, having a disorderly conduct conviction on your record could cost you your job and may even prevent future employers from hiring you.


Police frequently arrest persons for drunk in public when in fact the person can care for their safety or the safety of others. Officers use this offense as a pretext to harass persons by questioning them as to their sobriety and willingness to submit to a “consent search” for weapons or other contraband. If the individual refuses to consent, the officer may unlawfully arrest the person for drunk in public just so that the officer can search the person “incident to arrest.” If the officer finds drugs or an illegal knife, or other illegal items, it is important that you contact Michael E. Cindrich right away so that we can help you challenge the unlawful arrest and to keep the illegally seized evidence out of court.

Don’t let a disorderly conduct conviction threaten your future—a defense attorney may be able to help. With aggressive legal representation, such as an San Diego medical marijuana lawyer, you may be able to reduce your disorderly conduct fines, avoid any unnecessary jail time and keep your record clean.

Call today for a free consultation! 619-262-2500