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What Are The Consequences of Public Intoxication in Texas?

A young man in handcuffs being led to the back of a police cruiser.

Choosing not to drive after a night of drinking helps you save lives and avoid a DWI charge. However, there are some circumstances where you can be arrested and charged with public intoxication. This type of charge doesn't stem from simply enjoying a few drinks and walking. It often stems from the danger you may pose to yourself and others. If you're charged with public intoxication in Texas, know your rights and consider speaking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can help you fight the charges and navigate the legal system.

What is the legality of public intoxication in Texas?

Being intoxicated isn't inherently against the law, but public drunkenness becomes a legal issue if it poses a risk to your safety or that of others. If you're responsibly making your way home after an evening out, keeping to yourself without causing a scene, you're typically acting within legal boundaries. However, if your behavior in public draws law enforcement's attention due to concerns over your or others' safety, you could be charged with public intoxication. This type of behavior includes:

  • Staggering or having an unsteady walk in public spaces.
  • Loud or disruptive behavior, including yelling or singing loudly.
  • Exhibiting aggressive or confrontational actions towards others.
  • Appearing visibly disoriented or confused in a public setting.
  • Falling asleep or passing out in a public area.
  • Inability to stand or walk without assistance.
  • Engaging in inappropriate or lewd conduct.
  • Vomiting due to excessive alcohol consumption in public.
  • Having a strong smell of alcohol on the breath or body.
  • Being unable to respond coherently to questions or directions from law enforcement.
  • Entering or attempting to enter a restricted area without permission.

In Texas, public spaces often include:

  • Sidewalks and other public walking areas.
  • Streets, roads, and highways.
  • Restaurants, bars, and commercial venues.
  • Hospitals and medical centers.
  • Public gatherings and events.
  • Public transit systems.
  • Parking lots and garages.
  • Apartment complexes.
  • Porches and external building areas.

What are the legal consequences of a public intoxication charge?

Public intoxication alone is categorized as a Class C misdemeanor. The penalty for this is typically a $500 fine without jail time. However, this charge can stay on your record permanently. A second or subsequent offense may lead to a Class B misdemeanor, up to $2,000 in fines, and possibly 180 days in jail.

Minors caught in public intoxication face similar fines and penalties, with added repercussions such as driver's license suspension and obligatory participation in alcohol education and community service.

Upon being deemed publicly intoxicated by an officer, the immediate consequences include arrest, processing at a local police station, and possibly being detained until sober. You'll be given a court date upon release.

What charges can accompany public intoxication in Texas?

Depending on the type of behavior you're involved in, you can face other charges in addition to public intoxication. Some of the most common charges that accompany public intoxication include:

  • Disorderly conduct: This is typically a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. More severe conduct could lead to higher charges.
  • Resisting arrest: Texas considers this a Class A misdemeanor, which typically carries up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. If a weapon is used, the charge becomes a felony.
  • Trespassing: Trespassing can range from a Class C misdemeanor for simple trespass, to a Class B or A misdemeanor for more serious offenses.
  • Indecent exposure: Texas considers this a Class B misdemeanor, which can result in up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Vandalism: The penalties depend on the amount of damage. They can range from a Class C misdemeanor for minor damage, to a felony for damages over $2,500, potentially leading to years in prison and larger fines.
  • Harassment: This is typically a Class B misdemeanor, or a Class A misdemeanor if there are previous convictions.
  • Obstructing a roadway or public passageway: Typically a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Open container violations: This is generally a Class C misdemeanor.
  • Assault: Charges can range from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony for more serious offenses (2 to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine), depending on the specifics of the incident.

 Why should I hire a Texas criminal defense lawyer?

Public intoxication in Texas often has serious long-term consequences. Even if you only pay a fine, the charge can impact your ability to find employment and housing, obtain or maintain professional licensure, and decrease your social standing. It's important to take action immediately after an arrest. Practice your right to remain silent and speak to an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer at The Webb Firm, P.C.

Our approach includes scrutinizing the evidence gathered by law enforcement and conducting an investigation to unveil the specifics of your arrest. We meticulously examine arrest reports for any discrepancies and often seek insights from experts. We're also prepared to scrutinize the arrest location and speak to witnesses. Let us build a strong legal defense from the start. Contact us online or call us for a free consultation. We have offices in Conroe, TX, and Galveston, TX.

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