Public Drunkenness: When It’s Legal, And When It’s Not
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Public Drunkenness: When It’s Legal, And When It’s Not

Posted On - November 4th, 2014 | By Tim Clancy | Category - Uncategorized

In Texas, persons of legal age (21 years) are allowed to purchase and consume alcohol. This is common knowledge, as is the right of the individual to enjoy the state’s many public spaces. In this Venn diagram of legal activities, however, there exists a sliver that represents an extent of alcohol consumption that is not compatible with one’s presence in public spaces. Articulating this are Texas’s law against public intoxication; they provide the criteria for when one is too drunk to be in public.

The Individual’s Right To Drink Versus The Rights Of Others In Public Spaces

Under Texas’s public intoxication law, public intoxication is categorized as an offense against public health, safety, and morals. Under this law, included in Title 10, Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits the offense of public intoxication upon appearing in a public place while intoxicated to such an extent as to possibly endangering him or herself or another person. The philosophy underlying this law goes all the way back to the famous thinker John Stuart Mill. Mill believed that an individual’s liberty in society may extend so long as it does not lessen another person’s liberty. When an exercise of liberty crosses this threshold and thereby diminishes another’s liberty (by endangering them, for example), the state is justified in intervening to restore the balance of liberties. Texas’s law against public intoxication, then, can be seen as an expression of Mill’s fundamental belief. In Texas, one is free to purchase and consume alcohol and then converse or take a walk or enjoy other activities or public spaces. However, as the law makes clear, one cannot be in public after having consumed so much alcohol as to be violent, drunkenly veering through crowds, or wandering perilously close to things like bridge railings or rooftop edges. Violent or loutish behavior makes public spaces less enjoyable for others, and behavior that could result in one’s own death is bad for the community – it is both traumatic to behold, and may diminish the individual’s economic and other contributions to society.

Bars And Clubs Are Public Places, Too

In terms of public places, traditional ones include public parks and streets. It is important to understand that, under the law in Texas, a premises licensed or permitted under the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Code is also considered a public place. So, even though a bar or club may be a privately owned business, it is still a public place in the eyes of the law. This means it is no defense whatsoever for a person so drunk as to endanger the person or another to point out they were at a drinking establishment rather than a park or street. Even in such confines, one must conduct oneself responsibly.

Besides the embarrassment of having conducted oneself poorly in public, a public intoxication charge can result in fines and, depending on the complete circumstances, possibly jail time. If you have been charged with public intoxication in Texas, contact an experienced attorney today.

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