Public Intoxication - Austin Alcohol Intoxication Attorney

What is Pubic Intoxication (PI)?

The crime of Public Intoxication is a criminal offense prohibiting a person from appearing 'intoxicated' in a public place. What does 'intoxicated' mean? For most individuals arrested or cited for Public Intoxication, it means whether you might be a danger to yourself or another person. The key word is 'might.' Because the statute is so vauge as to what could occur, these cases are typically more difficult to defend. Officers need not give a breathalyzer test, and instead rely on their personal observations, such as smell of alcohol, stumbling, slurred speech, and admissions of drinking.


If a public intoxication case goes to a jury trial, the prosecutor will get the officer to testify about those observations, and the jury may use those facts to decide the verdict. 90% of Public Intoxication cases in Austin are one witness trials, meaning the prosecutor uses one officer's observations to try and prove intoxication.

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The Law on Public Intoxication

Sec. 49.02. indicates an offense of Public Intoxication if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another. Note that the word "may" appears in the statute. This essentially allows the officer to "predict" whether a person might be a danger. This "may" be a danger is typically the focus of contention in jury trials. Of note is also the phrase "intoxicated to the degree". Meaning that mere intoxication is not enough -- a person must be intoxicated in public to the degree that they may be a danger.

Sec. 49.02. PUBLIC INTOXICATION.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.

What are the Punishments?

For individuals arrested for Public Intoxication who are over the age of 21, the punishment for being Drunk in Public or Public Intoxication is a Class B Misdemeanor, meaning the individial could face up to six months in state jail and fines of up to $2000. An offense under this section committed by a person younger than 21 years of age is punishable in the same manner as if the minor committed an offense to which Section 106.071, Alcoholic Beverage Code, applies, meaning for individuals arrested for Public Intoxication who are under 21 years of age, the offense is considered a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $500, along with the potential to Suspend a Driver's License or Delay the ability to obtain one.


Penalties for Public Intoxication
Level of Offense Punishment
Class C Misdemeanor Not Jailable, No more than $500 fines
Class B Misdemeanor Not more than 180 days in a county jail, and/or no more than $2,000 fines

Of course, because most Public Intoxication cases are Class C misdemeanors, there is often a good chance for an attorney to negotiate a plea bargain that would potentially dismiss the case, which should be the goal for most defendants. A dismissal would entitle the person to seek an Expunction later.


Options if Charged with Public Intoxication:

The most common drunk in public arrests are the result of being stopped while walking home from a bar or college party. Officers typically observe loud or rowdy behavior that is sometimes accompanied by fighting, vandalism, or shouting, and can quite often prove the case to a jury through those observations. Unless an individual is on video or has multiple non-intoxicated witnesses ready to testify, trial is often an up hill battle.

Unlike other states, where Public Intoxication laws do not allow the officer or jury to pretend to predict the future, Texas law actually allows it (due to the 'might' be a danger lanaguge). Often the best defense is that there was no likely danger, and that the person, while intoxicated, was acting reasonably and would continue to do so.


Priors and More Information:

For repeat offenders under the age of 21, who have been previously convicted of Public Intoxication twice, the offense is punishable by a fine ($250 to $2,000) and the possibility of jailtime (between 0-180 days), or both.


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