Public Intoxication in Texas - Austin Defense Attorney Jason Trumpler

Public Intoxication in the State of Texas is governed by Penal Code Section 49.02. Special provisions in the Alcoholic Beverage Code, Title 4, Chapter 106, Section 106.071, relate to special punishments for offenders under the age of 21.

The statute in and of itself is relatively simple. A person commits the offense if he or she is in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that he or she may endanger him or herself or another.

Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Well, in practice the statute is really used as a catch all by officers to make an arrest when they do not know what else to arrest you for and you have been drinking. You may not reach the legal standard of being a danger to yourself or others, but the officer may find your conduct annoying and you have had a few drinks and bingo you are arrested for public intoxication. Frankly, this is the bulk of our public intoxication case load. We often take these cases to trial and win them.

Now, public intoxication is a Class C Misdemeanor and a fine only offense, but it can still be an embarrassing blemish on your criminal history. There are ways to negotiate a dismissal through adeferred disposition if that is the route you want to take or in many situations these cases can bewon at trial because you simply were not a danger to yourself or others when you were arrested.

If you go the deferred disposition route, the prosecutor will generally require a class, some community service, and a fine. If you are not a minor, we can make all of the court appearances for you and negotiate the agreement on your behalf. If you plan on going to trial, you will have to appear at the trial dates. There may be a few trial settings before you get to the top of the trial list.

A few quick things I should mention. There is a rarely used statutory medical defenseto public intoxication. If you are intoxicated due to treatment you received from a licensed medical professional for therapeutic purposes, that is a defense to public intoxication. I had not had to use this defense before until recently when I had a client who had just been released from the hospital and ended up wandering outside of his home. The officer assumed he was lying and that he was just high on pills. We provided documentation that he had just been released from the hospital to the prosecutor and the case was summarily dismissed.

It is also important to note the special provisions for minors. Minors may be required to attend their first appearance in court. In addition, if it is shown at trial that the defendant is a minor, who is not a child, that has at least two prior convictions, he can face Class B punishment. In this case, that means a fine of not less than $250, and no more than $2,000, and up to 180 days in the county jail.

In addition, if a minor is placed on deferred disposition for or convicted of public intoxication,he must do no less than 8 hours of community service and no more than 12 hours. If he has a prior conviction, he must do a minimum of 20 hours of community service and a maximum of 40 hours. There is a 30 day license suspension for a first offense. There is a 60 day license suspension for a second offense. There is a 180 days license suspension for a third or more offense.

It is also important to note that community service ordered under this section must be related to education about or prevention of misuse of alcohol or drugs, as applicable, if programs or services providing that education are available in the community in which the court is located. If programs or services providing that education are not available, the court may order community service that it considers appropriate for rehabilitative purposes.

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