Texas Public Intoxication

In Texas, it is not illegal to have a couple of beers and go out for a walk. In fact, going out dancing or even for a jog after you have been drinking is legal in Texas; however, if you have been drinking and are out in public endangering yourself or another person, that is against the law.

Texas Public Intoxication Law

Texas Penal Code, Section 49.02 defines public intoxication as when “a person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.” For the purposes of the law, a premises that is licensed to sell alcohol such as a bar or restaurant is considered a public place in addition to common areas where members of the public have access. This includes schools, hospitals, office buildings, apartment buildings, and the public roadways.

Being intoxicated is defined the same as for a drinking and driving charge as either:

    • 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 a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more

It is important to note that public intoxication is not allowed to be used as a lesser charge to a drinking and driving charge, such as an adult DWI or a minor DUI.

Underage Public Intoxication

The same section of the Texas Penal Code states that a minor can also be charged with public intoxication. For the purposes of penalties, an offense under Section 49.02 committed by a person younger than 21 years of age is punishable in the same manner as other underage drinking offenses defined in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.

Penalties for Public Intoxication

The punishment for a public intoxication arrest is a Class C misdemeanor for adults of legal drinking age. This includes a fine up to $500.

Instead of being brought to jail, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure also allows for the arresting officer to release a person arrested for public intoxication to a licensed treatment facility for chemical dependency if the person requests it and a facility accepts him. The arresting officer also has the option to release a person detained for public intoxication if the officer believes that it is not necessary to protect the person from himself or another’s protection.

The punishment for a public intoxication arrest is also a Class C misdemeanor for minors under the legal drinking age. However, Texas has a Zero Tolerance Law in effect for underage drinkers that make the penalties more severe. The consequences of an underage public intoxication charge include:

    • Fine: up to $500
    • Community service: between eight and 12 hours
    • Driver’s license suspended: 30 days
    • Alcohol awareness class