Public Intoxication – What you should know….

Often times people will get together and go out for a night on the town, to a sporting event, or to a party and find themselves in a situation where they are arrested for “public intoxication.”  What is the offense of public intoxication?

  • A person commits the offense of public intoxication if he appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that he is a danger to himself or to another. TX Penal Code 49.02.

So, let’s define some terms:  What is a “public place“?  By statute, a public place is defined as any place where the public or a substantial group of the public has access, and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops. TX Penal Code 1.07(a)(40).   This would include sporting venues, festivals and the fair grounds.

What does “intoxication” mean?  Again, under the penal code, intoxication means, “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a 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 .08 or more.” TX Penal Code 49.01(2)(A)&(B).

It is not enough for a person to be in a public place and be intoxicated.  Public intoxication requires also that the person be intoxicated to the extent that they are a danger to themselves or another person. “Physical manifestations of alcoholic consumption alone are not sufficient to constitute public intoxication. Rather, the State must demonstrate proof of potential danger either to the appellant himself or to others.” Simpson v. State, 886 S.W.2d 449, 455 (Tex. App.-Houston 1994).  A finding of potential danger generally requires the existence of some risky or precarious circumstances.

What is somewhat subjective is determining if a person is “a danger to himself or to another.” Officers look to the “potential dangers” that may exist when determining whether to arrest someone for public intoxication.

Below are some common situations where people can end up getting arrested for public intoxication because it draws the attention of the police:

  • Being in a group that’s being too loud and boisterous.
  • Walking on a sidewalk and at times stumbling off the curb into the street.
  • Being argumentative in public to the point of causing a scene that could erupt into an altercation.
  • Not using a designated crosswalk to cross the street (jay walking).
  • Crossing an intersection when light indicates no crossing.

These are good reminders to help avoid getting arrested for public intoxication when you are out and about. However, if this information comes a little too late, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a criminal  defense attorney to help you navigate the criminal justice system in order to protect your rights and seek a resolution that is in your best interest.

Public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.00.  TX Penal Code 49.02(c) and 12.23.