Public Intoxication and DWI are not the same charge, and while they both have to do with drunkenness, the consumption of alcohol or other intoxicating substances, and being in public, they are very different crimes according to Texas law.

To break it down specifically, the statutory definition for the term “intoxicated” is not equal in regards to the two charges. The definition for DWI intoxication, loss of normal mental or physical faculties and/or BAC of .08 or higher, requires a lesser measure of intoxication than public intoxication in Texas.

For the purposes of public intoxication, you are “intoxicated” when you are a danger to either yourself or others. In addition, police officers will usually video DWI suspects, and as a person in possession of a driver’s license, you have conditionally pre-agreed to take either a breath or blood test upon request after your arrest for DWI. This is the definition of implied consent, which we have discussed before.

Compared to Public Intoxication in Texas, there is no such agreement or taping procedure.

Potential Consequences for Public Intoxication

In addition to the differences in definition, the punishments for DWI and public intoxication vary quite a bit.

Specifically, Public Intoxication is included in the lowest category for criminal offenses. It is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries the possibility of up to a $500 dine — no incarceration may be assessed upon conviction of this type of misdemeanor alone.

This is how the Texas Penal Code reads for Public Intoxication:

Sec. 49.02. PUBLIC INTOXICATION. (a) 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.

(a-1) For the purposes of this section, a premises licensed or permitted under the Alcoholic Beverage Code is a public place.

(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the alcohol or other substance was administered for therapeutic purposes and as a part of the person’s professional medical treatment by a licensed physician.

(c) Except as provided by Subsection (e), an offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

(d) An offense under this section is not a lesser included offense under Section 49.04.

(e) An offense under this section committed by a person younger than 21 years of age is punishable in the same manner as if the minor committed an offense to which Section 106.071, Alcoholic Beverage Code, applies.

Houston Public Intoxication Attorney

While public intoxication in Texas is a low level offense, it is possible to be unfairly charged with such a crime, or have previous charges used against you in cases related to public intoxication, dwi, or other related charges or arrests.

Working with a public intoxication defense attorney may help you navigate your legal situation more easily. At Trichter & LeGrand, we have years and years of experience handling the public intoxication, DWI, and drug possession cases in Houston and Texas. We’re familiar with the legal codes for both local and national handling of intoxication based cases.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to fight your public intoxication case in Texas, contact us today for a free consultation.


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