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Public Intoxication

A charge of Public Intoxication, also known as a PI, is a Class “C” misdemeanor. Being arrested or issued a citation for public intoxication in Texas can be traumatic experience, especially if you end up spending the night in jail. Unfortunately, many responsible social drinkers will find themselves facing a public intoxication charge at some point in their lives. Additionally, a person can also be charged with public intoxication by being under the influence of drugs, including prescription or over-the-counter medications.

The criteria to arrest someone for Public Intoxication is extremely subjective. Police and other law enforcement officers are often quick to make an arrest for public intoxication in Austin, especially on 6th Street or West Campus. There are always two sides to the story in a public intoxication case and you need a criminal defense lawyer who will make sure that your side of the story is heard too.

Austin Public Intoxication Defense Lawyer

Many people make the mistake of representing themselves in public intoxication cases. Often times, defendants who represent themselves do not realize that pleading guilty and paying a fine can result in a conviction and a permanent criminal record. A good public intoxication attorney will have strong knowledge of Texas public intoxication law as well as the Courts and prosecutors that handle these cases. Knowing the steps to take and how to build a solid defense after a public intoxication arrest can be crucial to how the case is resolved.

An Austin criminal defense lawyer that regularly handles public intoxication cases will be familiar with what Judges and Prosecutors find to be the most important issues and defenses in a PI case. This knowledge and experience can often times make an essential difference in the final outcome of the case.

If you have been arrested for public intoxication in Austin or Travis County, Austin public intoxication lawyer Kevin Bennett can represent you. He can help you with all aspects of your PI case, including expunction. Call (512) 476-4626 today to set up a consultation.

Texas Public Intoxication Information

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Public Intoxication Law in Texas


(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.

(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the alcohol or other substance was administered for therapeutic purposes and as a part of the person’s professional medical treatment by a licensed physician.

(c) Except as provided by Subsection (e), an offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

(d) An offense under this section is not a lesser included offense under Section 49.04.

(e) 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.

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Explanation of Texas Public Intoxication Law

Under section 49.02 of the Texas Penal Code, an individual can be charged with public intoxication if they appear in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may be a danger to themself or others.

“Intoxication” is defined as not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

Police officers are trained to look for certain signs or clues of intoxication when trying to determine if someone is intoxicated under Texas law. Examples of signs of possible intoxication may include:

  • Slurred or impaired speech
  • Odor of alcohol coming from a person’s breath or person
  • Red, watery or bloodshot eyes
  • Poor or unsure balance
  • Difficulty in walking, turning or standing
  • Failure to follow or comprehend officer instructions
  • Being argumentative or combative while speaking with an officer
  • Lack of awareness in regards to time and place

“Public Place” is defined as any place where members of the public have access. Examples of a public place in Texas may include, but are not limited to:

  • Public street or highways
  • Parking lots
  • Bars
  • Gated communities such as apartment complexes
  • A person could even be charged with public intoxication while riding as a passenger in a car.

“Danger to Self or Others” The police consider many factors to determine whether an individual may be a danger to himself or herself or another person. These factors include being intoxicated to the point of being vulnerable to robbery and or assault; being intoxicated to the degree that attempting to drive home would be a bad idea; falling over drunk as this puts an individual at risk of falling into the road and being run over by a car while walking home; starting a fight; or being out of control.

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Defenses to Public Intoxication in Austin

As a criminal defense lawyer that regularly handles public intoxication cases in Austin, I understand the confusion and frustration that often results after an arrest for public intoxication. An unfortunate reality is that many individuals who arrested for public intoxication are arrested because they have a bad attitude, argue with or are being disrespectful towards a police officer – not because they are actually intoxicated. A skilled attorney that knows the law and understands how to defend a PI charge can fight your case to help you avoid a public intoxication conviction.

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Never Plead Guilty to Public Intoxication

I often times get asked by defendants if they should just plead guilty to public intoxication and pay the fine. Never plead guilty to public intoxication. It will come back to haunt you — especially if you later get another intoxication offense such as DWI. But you may say, “I was drunk.” That doesn’t matter. To prove you guilty of public intoxication, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated to the degree that you were a danger to yourself or to another. This burden of proof can be more difficult to meet when a good criminal defense attorney is working hard to fight your PI charge and protect your rights.

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Expunging a Public Intoxication Charge in Texas

If your public intoxication charge is dismissed or you successfully complete deferred disposition, the next step you should take is to have the arrest and case records erased through the process of expungement or expunction. Kevin Bennett has helped many individuals in Austin get their public intoxication case dismissed and expunged. Contact an experienced expungement and record sealing attorney in Austin at the Law Office of Kevin Bennett to discuss your eligibility to seal or expunge your criminal record.

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Texas Public Intoxication Punishment Ranges

Public Intoxication is a Class “C” Misdemeanor in Texas. The punishment for public intoxication in Texas is a fine of up to $500. If the person charged with public intoxication is a minor, the punishment terms are the same as if the person was charged with Possession of Alcohol by a Minor (MIP), which can include the suspension of the person’s drivers license.

For many people, a large fine is not the most serious consequence of a public intoxication case. For example, if you pay a fine and plead guilty to public intoxication, your case will result in a conviction and a permanent blemish to your criminal record.

An arrest for an intoxication offense raises very serious concerns to potential employers, graduate schools and licensing agencies when compared to other types of Class C Misdemeanors. Nobody wants to explain on a job application or in a job interview as to why they were arrested for being intoxicated to the point that they were considered a danger to himself or herself or others.

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Additional Resources

Texas Penal Code: Alcohol Offenses – Follow the link provided to access the Texas Penal Code and view chapter 49 which constitutes the intoxication and alcoholic beverage offenses. You can read penalties for public intoxication.

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission: Alcohol Laws – Access the official website for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to read alcohol laws and regulations in TX.

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Austin Public Intoxication Attorney | Travis County, TX

If you have been arrested for public intoxication in Travis County, TX, contact The Law Offices of Kevin Bennett today for a consultation. Criminal defense lawyer Kevin Bennett has years of experience taking on some of the toughest alcohol crime cases. He can help you preserve your freedom.

Contact The Law Office of Kevin Bennett at (512) 476-4626 for a consultation about your alcohol-related offense in Austin, TX and throughout Travis County. He will make every effort to fight your PI charge.

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