What is Public Intoxication and How Do You Get Charged With it?

In Texas, it is unlawful to be intoxicated while in public. A person who violates the statute could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense. There are many misconceptions about what this charge actually is and how it works in practice. Here, our Fort Worth criminal defense attorney provides an in-depth overview of public intoxication charges in Texas.

Know the Statute: Public Intoxication in Texas

Under Texas law (Texas Penal Code § 49.01), public intoxication is defined as an offense that happens when “a person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.” Notably, the law is centered around preventing harm that might result from inebriation rather than targeting alcohol consumption per se.

An Overview of the Penalties for Public Intoxication

In Texas, public intoxication is classified as a Class C misdemeanor. This is the least severe category of misdemeanor offenses, but it is not without penalties. Fines can go up to $500, but there is no jail time associated with a Class C misdemeanor. However, a conviction can still lead to a criminal record, which may affect future employment opportunities or eligibility for certain benefits.

It is important to note that public intoxication carries more severe criminal penalties for repeat offenders. A person facing a third time (or more) public intoxication offense can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor offense that carries penalties of up to a $2,500 fine and 180 days in jail.

A Note on Underage Public Intoxication: The penalties for public intoxication can be more significant for those under the legal drinking age of 21. Penalties include a 30-day license suspension, mandatory attendance in an alcohol education class, and up to 12 hours of community service.

Defending a Public Intoxication Charge in Texas

An arrest is not a conviction. There are various defenses that can be mounted against a public intoxication charge in Texas. One common defense strategy is questioning the sufficiency of the evidence to prove the individual’s level of intoxication. For example, was the person so intoxicated as to pose a potential danger? Was there a breathalyzer test administered or any other kind of chemical test to prove the person’s level of intoxication? In other cases, a plea agreement that spares a person from a criminal record could be the best approach. An experienced Fort Worth public intoxication defense lawyer can help you determine the best course of action.

Set Up a Confidential Case Review With a Fort Worth Public Intoxication Defense Lawyer

At The Law Office of Kyle Whitaker, our Texas criminal defense attorney has the skills, experience, and legal expertise to help clients navigate public intoxication cases. If you or your loved one was arrested and charged with public intoxication, please do not hesitate to contact us today for your fully confidential initial consultation. With a law office in Fort Worth, we handle misdemeanor and felony criminal charges throughout North Texas.

By Deborah A. Serrano

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