Under Texas law, people commit the misdemeanor crime of public intoxication if they appear in a public place while intoxicated to a degree that they may endanger themselves or another person. The Texas public intoxication law defines “intoxication” for purposes of the crime as having a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. It is not illegal to have a few drinks and then walk around town enjoying the Texas breeze and local hospitality. Just as long as you don’t disrupt others who might be trying to enjoy the same beautiful sights Texas has to offer. If you find yourself bumping into others or stepping on someone’s shoes one too many times you could find yourself having a very un-enjoyable conversation with the local law.
If a police officer reasonably believes a person is intoxicated and then conducts a pat-down search that reveals other grounds for arrest, that evidence can be used to charge the person with other crimes. A Texas court is likely to rule that an officer who observes signs of intoxication (alcohol odor, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes) on a man who is acting out of line in the middle of a street has probable cause to arrest the man.
So, to put it simply, just being intoxicated in public is not illegal in Texas. In order to be convicted of public intoxication a person must be both intoxicated (have at least the minimum blood-alcohol concentration) and pose a possible danger to his or herself or others.
What is considered a Public Place?
Any place where members of the public have access is a public place under Texas law. This definition includes the common areas of schools, hospitals, office buildings, and even apartment buildings.
Any premises licensed or permitted to sell alcohol is also a public place in Texas, which could encompass even private clubs, restaurants, and music festivals.
What are the consequences for Public Intoxication?
For 21 or older.
Public intoxication in Texas is a Class C Misdemeanor. Class C Misdemeanors in Texas are punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.00. However, having two prior public intoxication convictions makes the third public intoxication enhanceable to a Class B Misdemeanor, which carries potential jail time of up to 180 days and a fine up to $2,000.
Someone that is under the age of 21 (a minor), first time conviction for public intoxication can result in the suspension of their driver’s license, driver’s learning permit or to even deny the issuance of a driver’s learning permit.
A minor convicted for a first time public intoxication faces a fine between $250 and $500. And a minor will be forced to attend mandatory community service and most likely a alcohol education course or program.
What do I do if found in a situation dealing with Public Intoxication?
Unfortunately, many individuals who are arrested in for public intoxication make the mistake of representing themselves in their PI case. By doing so the defendant is vulnerable to making legal decisions that can have negative and unintended consequences.
For example, what many people do not realize is that paying a fine and pleading guilty to a public intoxication charge will result in a permanent conviction to your criminal record.
Knowing the steps to take and how to build a solid defense after a public intoxication arrest can be crucial to how the case is resolved. This knowledge and experience can often times make an essential difference in the final outcome of the case.
Contact an experienced Attorney; they will have more power to help you in the situation than you will yourself.
This is a general article for example purposes. As always, please contact us at 979-821-2663 regarding your specific case.