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Public Intoxication in Texas

Under Texas law, a person commits the misdemeanor crime of public intoxication, also known as a PI, if they appear in a public place while intoxicated to a degree that they may endanger themselves or another person. Public intoxication is considered a Class C misdemeanor and punishable by up to a fine of $500. However, for many people, a large fine is not the most serious consequence of a public intoxication case; it is the possibility of a permanent criminal record.

Austin Public Intoxication Lawyer

As a criminal defense lawyer that regularly handles Texas public intoxication cases in Austin, I understand the confusion and frustration that often results after a PI arrest.

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. There are always two sides to the story in these kinds of incidents and you need a criminal defense lawyer who will make sure that your side of the story is heard too.

If you have been arrested for public intoxication in Austin, TX and are confused or unsure as to how to proceed, contact Austin public intoxication lawyer Kevin Bennett. He can help you with all aspects of your PI case, including expunction.

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.

Explanation of Texas Public Intoxication Law

If you have been charged with pubic intoxication, it may be tempting to simply pay the fine and move on with your life. You may even think to yourself “I was drunk.” That doesn’t matter. It’s not a crime to simply be drunk in public. To prove you guilty of public intoxication, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated to the degree that you may have been a danger to yourself or to another.

“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.” (Texas Penal Code Section 49.02)

“Intoxication” is defined in Texas 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.

Most times when individuals are arrested for Public Intoxication, the police do not give any field sobriety tests or offer the arrested individual a breath or blood test. This is standard in arrest for public intoxication in Austin, TX.

“Public Place” is defined as any place where members of the public have access is a public place under Texas law. This definition includes, but is not limited to, public streets, highways, parking lots, bars, and even gated 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 use several criteria to determine if an individual is at risk of harming himself or herself or another person. These include being intoxicated to the point of being vulnerable to robbery and or assault; being intoxicated to the degree that attempting to drive home might not end well; 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.

An unfortunate reality is that many people that are arrested for public intoxication are arrested because they have a bad attitude or are being disrespectful to the officers – not because they are actually intoxicated. A skilled attorney that knows the law and the system will be able to fight on your behalf to help you avoid a conviction for public intoxication

Pleading Guilty to Public Intoxication – Don’t do it!

Unfortunately, many individuals who are arrested in Austin for public intoxication make the mistake of representing themselves in their PI case. These defendants are vulnerable to making legal decisions that can have negative and unintended consequences. For example, what many people do not realize is that paying a fine and pleading guilty to a public intoxication charge will result in a permanent conviction to your criminal record.

Knowing the steps to take and how to build a solid defense after a public intoxication arrest in Austin can be crucial to how the case is resolved. This knowledge and experience can often times make an essential difference in the final outcome of the case.

The Law Office of Kevin Bennett provides dedicated legal defense against public intoxication charges in Austin and Travis County, Texas.  To take the first step in protecting your rights and criminal record, contact Austin public intoxication lawyer Kevin Bennett at (512) 476-4626 or through email.

Penalties for Public Intoxication in Texas

Although the penalty for public intoxication in Texas is a fine of up to $500, for most people, the most serious consequence of a public intoxication arrest is the possibility of having a permanent criminal record. For example, many individuals make the mistake of treating their PI case like a speeding ticket, which is also considered a Class C misdemeanor under Texas law. Oftentimes, these same defendants will decide to pay some sort of reduced fine in order to get their case over with and behind them, not realizing that this course of action results in conviction and that records of their arrest and case will become apart of their permanent criminal record.

An arrest for an intoxication offense does not look good to potential employers, graduate schools or professional licensing agencies, especially when compared to other types of Class C Misdemeanors. Nobody wants to disclose a criminal offense on a job application or have to explain their public intoxication arrest in a job interview.


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