What is public intoxication?
According to the Texas Penal Code § 49.02, a person is guilty of public intoxication when a person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger themselves or another person. This means that being intoxicated is not enough to charge a person with public intoxication; instead a person must be both intoxicated (defined as .08 or higher) and pose a possible danger to him/herself or others.
In Texas, a public place is anywhere the public can access. It includes your usual streets, bars, and restaurants; It may also include the common area of an apartment complex.
What are some possible defenses for public intoxication?
There are many defenses but one of the first is illegal search and seizure issues. It is important to determine if the rights of the individual being arrested were violated. For example, would the inside of a person’s apartment home count as a public place? What if the apartment owner was allowing anyone off the street to enter the apartment? Every case is different and every case must be looked at independently.
The next defense to consider is if the person is actually intoxicated. Also to consider is if the officer had reasonable suspicion of intoxication. Remember, public intoxication requires that a person is both intoxicated and that the person may endanger themselves or someone else.
Another possible defense is to determine if the person was a danger to him/herself or others. If someone is just sitting harmlessly, then they may not be a danger but if that person is yelling and throwing things at people that walk by, they may be a danger to others.
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What is the penalty for public intoxication?
Public intoxication is a Class C Misdemeanor and carries a punishment fine of $500. In the Texas legal system, this is considered a minor offense but in reality, this offense can haunt your record for the rest of your life. It can damage your ability to get a job, pass a background check and the arrest will likely trigger a request for an explanation from any future employers.
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