By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Texas Penal Code Section 49.02 governs public intoxication. The statute says Public Intoxication (or a PI) is committed where, “…the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.”
The degree of intoxication is actually greater than the degree of intoxication necessary to be guilty of Driving While Intoxicated. For a DWI, the standard is that a person “does not have the normal use of their mental or physical faculties…”
A good way to think of it is that with a DWI, you’re deemed to be dangerous behind the wheel. For a PI, you’re deemed to be dangerous for no other reason that you’re in public.
It goes without saying that Public Intoxication charges are highly subjective. For this reason, police who need probable cause to make an arrest have a very easy time justifying an arrest for PI. It’s not uncommon at all for a police officer to make an arrest or two for public intoxication where the officer is dealing with crowd control to try and maintain order. Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon for police to make arrests for PI when they become agitated and only have evidence of alcohol consumption.
Due to those types of situation constraints, it is very rare in PI cases that the officer does field sobriety tests or breath testing as they would in a DWI.
Public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500, but can obviously look much nastier on your record.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific case you should consult an attorney directly.