California Penal Code Section 647(F) - Interpretation

In People v. Perez (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 297, the Court held that an apartment hallway was a public place for purposes of section 647, subdivision (f) because it was readily accessible to all who wished to go there. "There were no locked gates or doors to keep the public from entering. Hallways and stairways of multiple dwellings are open to delivery men, service men, solicitors, visitors and other strangers, whether those hallways are interior or exterior to the buildings ... . In other words, a 'public place' within the meaning of section 647, subdivision (f) is a location readily accessible to all those who wish to go there rather than a place which the general public frequents." (People v. Perez, supra, at p. 301.) It has been held that a "public place includes the area outside a home in which a stranger is able to walk without challenge." For example, in People v. Olson (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 592, an intoxicated woman rang the doorbell at a residence, was allowed in by the homeowner, who was a stranger to her, and fell asleep at the homeowner's kitchen table. the homeowner summoned police in an effort to obtain help for the defendant. Police arrested the woman for being intoxicated in a public place ( 647, subd. (f)). (People v. Olson, supra, at pp. 594-595.) Olson concluded that the area outside the house, including the driveway, lawn, and porch, "was a public place within the meaning of section 647, subdivision (f)... . Inasmuch as defendant, a complete stranger to the homeowner, was able to walk through the outside area of her home to the front door without challenge, it can hardly be denied that the area is open to 'common' or 'general use.' " (People v. Olson, supra, at p. 598.)