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Public intoxication arrest: can I avoid conviction?

With the term “public intoxication,” we typically think of drunkenness. However, this offense also applies to intoxication from any substance, including:

  • Illicit drugs, such as methamphetamine
  • Prescription drugs, such as oxycodone
  • Inhaled substances, such as glue

What qualifies as public intoxication?

Public intoxication is a type of disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor in the state of California. However, not all levels of impairment meet the qualification of public intoxication. This offense refers to intoxication in public to the point where:

  • You are unable to exercise care in your own safety or the safety of others, and
  • You prevent or inhibit others from freely using the street, sidewalk or other public place.

What are the penalties?

If you are arrested for public intoxication, you will be taken into civil protective custody until you sober up. First-time offenders can face 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. Those under the age of 21 can also lose their driver’s license for one year – or delay their eligibility to receive their driver’s license for one year, if they don’t already have one.

Opportunities for diversion

Fortunately, facing the above consequences isn’t set it stone. Public intoxication – along with other misdemeanor offenses – is eligible for diversion in the state of California. A diversion program is an alternate form of sentencing, the purpose of which is to rehabilitate the offender. The type of diversion program the court assigns you will differ based on the case. You may have to enter into a certain program or class, such as an alcohol rehabilitation program. You may have to complete mandatory community service.

Through diversion, you pay your debts to society without going to jail and without damaging your future. If you successfully complete the program, your criminal charges will be dropped, and your criminal record will be sealed. Not having a criminal record can be enormously advantageous in virtually every pursuit later on in life – from seeking employment to applying for a loan.

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