Policy Recommendation - 06.19.2003

Subject:  Providing Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test to Individuals Arrested and Booked for Public Intoxication and the Filing of Public Intoxication Reports

Recommendation:  The Office of Citizen Complaints recommends that the San Francisco Police Department

1.) Implement a procedure for filing and maintaining public intoxication reports to ensure that they are preserved and accessible to the public to the same degree that incident reports are.

2.) Provide a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test to individuals arrested and booked for public intoxication (Penal Code section 647(f)).

Case Background:

The complainant was involved in a non-injury traffic accident.  Despite a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test of .00%, no smell of alcohol on complainant’s breath, and witnesses who stated he had not been drinking, the complainant was arrested and booked for public intoxication (Penal Code sec.647(f)) where he was held for four hours at the district station. 

Department bulletins addressing public intoxication arrests mandate officers to prepare a public intoxication report in every case.  In the instant case the arresting officer stated that he prepared a public intoxication report but he could not produce it for the OCC investigation. The station keeper who received the booking could not produce the report, although he maintained he would have required the report as a prerequisite to booking in this case because the complainant was booked only on the public intoxication charge.  In another case the complainant was arrested and held for four hours for public intoxication even though he claimed he had not been drinking.  His requests for a breath and blood tests were denied.  When he requested a copy of the public intoxication report from the District Station, he was told he needed to obtain it from the Reports Management Section where he was informed no report existed.  Eventually and after much effort and persistence he received a copy of the report through the Police Legal Division.

Because public intoxication reports constitute the sole contemporaneous documentation of the justification for a civilian’s prolonged custodial detention, they should be filed with the Reports Management Section and maintained as scrupulously as incident reports.   Additionally, public intoxication reports should be made available to the detainee to the same extent that other incident reports are available to arrestees, detainees and suspects. 

Under San Francisco Police Department’s current policy, a 647(f) arrestee cannot obtain a blood, breath or urine test to determine the presence or absence of alcohol or drugs unless the arrestee can arrange for and pay the costs of the test.  According to SFPD’s Booking and Detention Manual, DM-12 (March 2002), “[t]he test will be administered at the arrested person’s expense and conducted under the supervision of the Station Keeper.”  District station are not equipped with breathalyzers; the costs associated with hiring a medical staff person to come to the district station to obtain a blood or urine test will be prohibitive to most detainees. On the other hand, most officers have Preliminary Alcohol Screening devices that can at least provide some measure of alcohol consumption with little extra cost to the Department.  Because a 647(f) arrest involves a substantial custodial detention of an individual, the Department should be required to collect evidence that supports this liberty infringement.  The Department should be required to use Preliminary Alcohol Screening tests or another testing device that incurs a minimal cost to the Department but enables an arrestee to determine the presence  or absence of alcohol. 

Investigated by: David Aulet and Sergei Litvinov
Prepared by: SAMARA MARION, Senior Attorney
Approved by: KEVIN ALLEN, Director
Date: June 19, 2003