Laws on Public Intoxication in Texas

In Texas, public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor and can cost you a fine of up to $500. Under the Texas Penal Code, public intoxication means public drunkenness to an extent that the person in question may pose a danger to themselves or others. While this falls under the lowest classification of misdemeanors, and you won’t have to spend any time in jail, you still need to worry about this. That’s because a charge of public intoxication can leave a huge dent in your permanent criminal record. And having a criminal conviction in your records, no matter the intensity, is always detrimental to your life.

But this absolutely doesn’t mean you can’t go out if you’ve had a few beers, wine, or other alcoholic beverages. No, public intoxication charges will only apply if your public drunkenness causes you to become a threat to yourself or others around you. 

Public Intoxication Lawyer in Austin

Determining whether a person was actually a threat for the purposes of public intoxication is where things get complicated. The most important thing to remember here is that these situations are not straightforward, and there are always two sides to a story. So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to present your case by admitting guilt just to hurry the proceedings along. You’d be doing more damage than good to your future. An Austin Criminal Lawyer can help you get out of this situation scot-free.  

If you or your loved ones are facing charges of public intoxication in Austin, Tx, especially out on 6th Street or Rainey Street, don’t take it lightly, immediately contact Austin public intoxication lawyer James Gill. Having dealt with many public intoxication cases in Austin, I know just how to get you out of this situation with a minimum or no fine, and a clean criminal record.

Public Intoxication Laws in Texas

In the simplest of terms, a person can be charged with public intoxication if they are in an inebriated state in a public place, and their public drunkenness causes them to be a danger to themselves or the people around them. 

What this means is, it’s perfectly fine to be walking around the street slightly drunk. You can even walk to a supermarket to shop or catch a movie in a very public theatre after having a few alcoholic beverages. But if your public drunkenness makes you stumble to an extent that there’s a possibility of you hitting the oncoming traffic, or if you start throwing things at people in the supermarket, you will be deemed to have committed the crime of public intoxication.

Understanding Texas Public Intoxication Law

Due to the lack of any specific guidelines as to what makes a person dangerous while in a drunken state, the arresting officers have a lot of discretion. They can make an arrest for public intoxication if a person is being rude or disrespectful to them. In fact, most of the arrests made for public intoxication will not stand in the court when argued with the assistance of an experienced public intoxication Attorney like James Gill. In these cases, the officer-in-charge can make an arrest without conducting a field test or breathalyzer, unlike adult DWI and minor DUI (Read DUI vs. DWI for more detail on this). 

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s dive a little deeper into the technicalities of this charge. So, what is public intoxication in Texas? Public intoxication definition has been provided under section 49.02(a) of the Texas Penal Code as: 

“A person commits an offense if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.”

No one can arrest you for just being drunk in a public place. For the purposes of the criminal charge of public intoxication, the prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all the following three criteria were fulfilled. 


A person must be intoxicated at the time of the arrest. In Texas, the definition of intoxication is the same for DUI, DWI & public intoxication. It means:

  1. 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 
  2. having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more.

“Public Place”

The person needs to be present at a public place to be convicted for public intoxication. Under Texas Penal Code, “public place” means any place that can be accessed by the public in general. It includes streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops.

Under section 49.02 of the Texas Penal Code, any place licensed or permitted to sell liquor will also be considered as a public place. This means you can be held for public intoxication at the club or the bar you got drunk in. Of course, this shouldn’t stop you from going out to the clubs and partying with friends, as long as you are in control of your senses and don’t pose a threat to anyone, including yourself. Let’s discuss what that means.

“Danger to Self or Others”

Even if the above two criteria are satisfied, an arrest cannot be made unless the person in question may endanger themselves or others. What would qualify a person to be dangerous is entirely subjective to the arresting officer’s perception of the situation. For instance, if you are walking in a park minding your own business, no one would consider you a danger. But if you start pushing people during your stroll, you might be held for public intoxication. 

Other than apparent actions, circumstances play an important role here too. If a person is stumbling a little while hailing a cab, they won’t be seen as a potential threat. But if someone is stumbling towards oncoming traffic, it would put them at the risk of getting into an accident. 

Underage Public Intoxication

The legal drinking age in Texas is 21 years, barring a few exceptions. But a person under the age of 21 years can also be held liable under section 49.02 of the Texas Penal Code for public intoxication. For the purposes of this charge, they can be punished in the same manner as if the minor committed an offense related to underage drinking as provided in the Alcoholic Beverage Code.

This means a minor might need to pay a fine of up to $500, along with a possible suspension of driving license for up to 30 days. The punishment may also include community service for 8 – 12 hours for the first offense, and 20 – 40 hours for a repeat offense, and an alcohol awareness class.

Penalties and Fines for Public Intoxication in Texas

After the arrest has been made, the arresting officer can take you to the police station to get your fingerprints, paperwork, and mugshots. They may even keep you there until they believe you no longer pose a threat to yourself or others. You can also be immediately let go or be released to a licensed treatment facility for chemical dependency if you desire treatment and the facility accepts you.

The penalty for public intoxication in Texas may vary depending on your age and the circumstances leading to the arrest. It can lead to a fine of up to $500, plus can include between 8 and 12 hours of community service, Driver’s license suspension for 30 days, and alcohol awareness class.

The penalty is often not the most serious consequence in these cases. No, it is in fact the permanent dent that it leaves on an individual’s records. A background check is required in most things you do, so a permanent criminal record can have a really detrimental effect on life. It definitely does not look good to potential employers, graduate schools, or professional licensing agencies.

Have a Public Intoxication Charge? Work with an Experienced Lawyer

Most people don’t realize a conviction for public intoxication in Texas can be easily avoided, if only they don’t take things into their own hands. Just to get over it quicker, they make the mistake of treating a public intoxication charge as other Class C misdemeanors and just paying the fine. Paying the fine could mean admission to guilt. So, don’t do that! Reach out to an experienced Austin DWI lawyer instead, and we will make sure your charge of public intoxication in Texas ends in dismissal. 

If you or anyone you know has been arrested for public intoxication, immediately reach out to Austin public intoxication lawyer James Gill to avoid or minimize your public intoxication fine in Texas, and get away with a clean permanent record.