Most people are quite aware that driving after consuming alcohol can be dangerous and also result in serious DWI charges. Yet what Texas defense lawyers find is that many people do not know they can also be charged with public intoxication under certain circumstances.

While it is not at all illegal to consume alcohol and have some fun in the process, defense attorneys warn that those out for a fun evening need to understand the laws on public intoxication and how to avoid any problems.

What Is Public Intoxication?

According to Texas law, public intoxication or PI is when a person is intoxicated in a public place to the point where they are viewed as a danger to themselves or others. Defense lawyers point out that public places include anywhere the public is permitted such as streets and highways, schools, hospitals, public businesses and establishments including bars and restaurants, parking lots, parks, gated communities, and even riding in vehicles.

While this explanation seems simple enough, defense attorneys find that it is the interpretation of this law and the determination of intoxication that is highly debatable in many cases.

Determining Public Intoxication

The biggest challenge in cases of public intoxication is determining whether an individual is actually intoxicated and does truly present some type of hazard to themselves or others. Defense lawyers find that while some people may test as being under the legal blood alcohol limit, they may still be viewed as a danger based on their public behavior.

Generally, the assessment on whether endangerment is possible is made by the arresting police officer based on field sobriety testing, Breathalyzer analysis, and observation. Even without Breathalyzer testing, someone who has been drinking publicly and is displaying unruly behavior can be arrested and charged on grounds of reasonable cause.

Police may also pat a suspect down and find other grounds for arrest.  Fortunately, when there is no concrete evidence of someone actually acting in a manner that could endanger themselves or others, defense attorneys can debate these charges.

What are the Penalties for Public Intoxication?

Public intoxication is a misdemeanor offense in Texas. It is punishable by a fine of up to $500. Because of this, a conviction of PI can affect someone's ability to get a job, their auto and health insurance, and even make it harder to rent a home or apartment. The residual damage from this offense is usually much more lasting than the immediate one.

The message that Texas defense attorneys want to pass on is that just because it is not a crime to consume alcohol or even to be intoxicated, it can be a crime to be publicly intoxicated to the point that people are endangered. Although the offense may seem minor, a conviction will leave the convicted with a permanent criminal record that can later affect them in many ways.

Defense lawyers agree that the best option is to stay controlled when out enjoying a few drinks with friends and avoid circumstances that could lead to a public intoxication arrest!

Garza & Elizondo, LLP

Downtown Brownsville
Principal Office
680 East St. Charles St, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520
(956) 202-0067

North Brownsville
Meetings With Attorneys By Appointment Only
1393 East Alton Gloor Blvd, Suite 12
Brownsville TX 78526
(956) 202-0067

San Benito
Meetings With Attorneys By Appointment Only
2395 La Palma Street, Suite A
San Benito TX 78586

(956) 202-0067