Is Public Intoxication a Crime?
In Texas, public intoxication is a crime. Under Texas Penal Code 49.02, public intoxication is defined as being in a public space while normal physical or mental faculties are altered by alcohol/and or drugs. For a person to be charged under this statute, their inebriated state must have made them a danger to their safety or someone else's.
What is Public Intoxication in Texas?
If you're strolling down the sidewalk while intoxicated and you're not hurting yourself or anybody around you (or are not in danger of doing so), you're not committing an offense. However, if you're stumbling around to the extent that you could trip and fall into oncoming traffic, your actions are criminal. Likewise, you're violating the law if, because of your drunkenness, you start shoving people nearby, which could lead to injury, you're also committing a crime.
How Much is a Public Intoxication Fine?
The fine for public intoxication is up to $500. Keep in mind that getting arrested also involves being taken to jail. You will be fingerprinted, booked, and your mugshot will be taken. You will sit in jail until the authorities believe you are sober enough to leave and are no longer a danger to yourself or others.
Is Public Intoxication a Felony?
Public intoxication in the state of Texas is not considered a felony -- it is a misdemeanor. Fortunately, this means that it is not as serious of an offense, however, a conviction may still lead to serious penalties such as a fine and a criminal record, or if you are under 21, a suspension of your driver's license.
What Class Misdemeanor is Public Intoxication?
Public intoxication is charged as a Class C misdemeanor. Although this is the lowest classification of a misdemeanor and does not result in jail time, it should still be taken seriously. A conviction will show up on your criminal record, which could have profound effects on your life.
Penalties for Public Intoxication
If you are arrested for public intoxication, the penalties are as follows:
- 21 years and older:
- Charged with Class C misdemeanor
- May include a fine of up to $500
- Under 21 years old:
- Driver's license suspension for up to 30 days
- Mandatory completion of alcohol awareness class
- Completion of community service (up to 12 hours)
- May include a fine of up to $500
What Are Examples of Public Spaces in Texas?
The public intoxication law applies when you are in a public place. But how does the state define a "public place?" Texas Penal Code 1.07 provides that a public place is an area that is accessible to the public or a substantial group of people.
The statute gives the following as examples:
- Common areas of schools
- Office buildings
- Transport facilities
What's interesting about the public intoxication law is that you could be charged with the offense if you're still on the premises in which you became inebriated. The statute provides that an establishment licensed under the Alcoholic Beverage Code is considered a public area. Thus, if you're at a bar, your normal faculties are compromised, and you could harm yourself or others, you may be cited for public intoxication.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Public Intoxication Case?
Many people believe that because a public intoxication charge is a Class C misdemeanor, they don't need a criminal defense lawyer. They will simply pay the fine and go on with their lives. But having a conviction of any type can have lasting effects, and it's best to consult with an attorney before deciding to plead guilty and pay the fine. Defenses may be raised to fight the charge and avoid or minimize the penalty.
Accused of public intoxication? Our Dallas lawyers at Deandra Grant Law can handle your case. We have extensive experience working within the legal system and know how to effectively challenge the State's accusations. Call (214) 225-7117 or contact us for a consultation. Our services are available in Spanish.