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What Constitutes Public Intoxication?


Public Intoxication in Texas

Many people may wind up facing a public intoxication charge in Texas. Although this charge is common, it can still have serious consequences. Although it is not against the law to have a few alcoholic drinks and take a stroll in public, getting too intoxicated in public can lead to an arrest. A criminal charge for public intoxication can turn into a trip to jail, charges in court and long-term consequences.

What Is Public Intoxication?

According to Section 49.02 of the Texas Penal Code, public intoxication is defined as an instance where a person is intoxicated to the point that they may present a danger to themselves or another person in a public place. This law is intended to protect the safety of people in public areas.

For example, if a person consumes four drinks in a bar and then decides to walk home, that person could be charged with public intoxication. Even if that person is not trying to cause any problems, he or she could still face legal charges. A police officer could determine that a person could be drunk enough to cause a problem to another person.

Legal Penalties

There are many potential legal consequences associated with a charge of public intoxication. A person who is convicted of this charge in court may face jail time or steep fines. Additionally, a conviction for public intoxication could affect a defendant’s future if they are forced to undergo a background check.

Some of the penalties that could apply to a person convicted of this charge include:

  • Conviction on a Class C misdemeanor charge
  • A fine of up to $500

Repeated convictions for a public intoxication charge could cause these penalties to be upgraded to a Class B misdemeanor charge. This means that a conviction for this charge could lead to jail time in addition to financial penalties and a criminal record.

Legal Defenses

There are several legal defenses available to people who are charged with public intoxication. These defenses could involve an attorney who argues that a defendant:

  • Wasn’t intoxicated
  • Did not pose a danger to themselves or others
  • Was experiencing effects of a legal substance

For example, suppose that John was arrested while walking home one night. The arresting officer alleges that John was swaying and stumbling after consuming alcohol. However, the defense attorney could argue that John had consumed a legal medication that causes physical side effects. The attorney could argue that John was merely experiencing the side effects of a legal medication that had been consumed according to a physician’s directions.

In another defense, the attorney could argue that the defendant was not causing himself or another person any danger. For example, the attorney could introduce evidence showing that the defendant was merely on the way home and no one else was in their way. They could use security camera footage to show that the defendant was not stumbling when they left a restaurant or bar.

Whatever the case, the best decision to make after being charged with public intoxication is to hire a defense attorney. An attorney can explain the process of a public trial and what to expect in a courtroom. Additionally, a lawyer may be able to negotiate with a judge in order to secure a plea bargain. A plea bargain may allow a defendant to plead guilty to a less serious charge. If this strategy is successful, the defendant may avoid jail time or fines. In some cases, the defendant may be allowed to serve a term of court-supervised probation instead of serving any jail time.

Hiring a defense attorney is the best way to prepare a solid legal defense strategy after being charged with public intoxication.


Attorney Matt Sharp Can Help

If you have been arrested for public intoxication, please contact us. We will fight hard to protect your rights and your future. Call (713) 868-6100 or email for your free and confidential consultation.

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