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How Serious Is a Public Intoxication Charge in Texas?

In Texas, 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.

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Public Intoxication Defined

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. Additionally, 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 the law means is that 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, you're 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.

The Definition of a Public Space 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:

  • Streets
  • Highways
  • Common areas of schools
  • Hospitals
  • Apartments
  • Office buildings
  • Shops
  • 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.

Can I Go to Jail for Public Drunkenness?

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, a conviction for public intoxication results in only a fine. You won't go to jail for the offense, but you can be ordered to pay up to $500.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My 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.

If you were accused of public intoxication, our Dallas lawyers at Deandra Grant Law can help handle your case. We have extensive experience working within the legal system, and we know how to effectively challenge the State's accusations. To learn more about your legal options, call us at (214) 225-7117 or contact us online.