Public Intoxication Law in Texas

Participating in disorderly and visibly drunk behavior within a public setting qualifies as public intoxication. Most states make it a crime to ensure public spaces are peaceful and safe, preventing any unintentional harm caused by individuals. In Texas, you can drink alcohol in public. However, you should be aware that police officers can intervene and charge you with public intoxication in certain situations.

Many people commonly think that a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more is legally too much to drive. This guideline assists in recognizing if someone seems noticeably intoxicated during an examination. A lawyer cannot challenge the test results. Everyone in the US sees this rule as the legal limit for being too drunk. No one can argue against this rule.

Facing an accusation of public intoxication in Texas carries substantial weight. This charge applies to anyone spotted in a public area who could potentially cause harm. Knowing what counts as public intoxication in Texas is crucial to avoid arrest or disputing an unjust accusation of public intoxication.

Elements Required to Prove Public Intoxication

The state law under Texas Penal Code 49.02 says that if someone appears drunk or intoxicated in a public place, it is considered public intoxication. Even though this explanation appears simple, it includes essential factors that result in a public intoxication charge:

  1. The person should be in public – The person needs to be in a public place for public intoxication to apply. In specific situations, someone might not encounter any problems when consuming beverages loudly at home, but they could end up facing public intoxication charges if they engage in the same behavior in a city park. However, it gets trickier with places like bars, stadiums, or restaurants.  Even though private entities own them and the government doesn’t control them, these places still serve as gathering spots for communities.
  2. The person is acting in a way that bothers or threatens others or themselves – The actions of the accused person should have either caused a disturbance or posed a threat of harm to others. This rule singles out people who create problems in public spaces, not those who are simply very drunk. Take the case of a young man who struggles to walk on the sidewalk without causing trouble. In this situation, he might not face a charge of public intoxication. However, if he begins hurling rocks or provoking others, he’s highly likely to face an arrest.
  3. The person seemed to be intoxicated – As a result, even if someone isn’t truly intoxicated but behaves like they are, they could face public intoxication charges. It is considered sufficient if they appear to be intoxicated or engage in behavior that is noisy or disruptive. This is because the purpose is to safeguard public places from becoming a threat or intimidating to others. Unlike DWI/DUI charges, there’s no need for an alcohol level test for a public intoxication accusation. A prosecutor can trust the testimony of law enforcement officers or witnesses who saw the defendant’s actions and thought they were drunk.

Penalties For Public Intoxication


In Texas, there’s a Zero Tolerance Law for underage drinkers, which leads to stricter penalties. Facing a charge of underage public intoxication results in:

  • Class C Misdemeanor charge
  • A fine that can go up to $500
  • Doing community service for eight to 12 hours
  • Your driver’s license will face a 30-day suspension.
  • Attending an alcohol awareness class

First Offenders 

  • Class C Misdemeanor charge
  • A fine of up to $500
  • Possible jail time of up to 72 hours

Second Offenders

  • Class B Misdemeanor charge
  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • Jail time of up to 180 days

In certain situations, there’s a possibility of facing felony charges due to special conditions. For instance, if someone is drunk in public causes major damage to property, attacks someone, or commits another crime, they can’t claim that their intoxication made them not responsible for their actions. Although many people understand that legal intoxication seriously affects thinking and decision-making, courts usually don’t consider this as a defense in most situations.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

In Texas, once you have a criminal conviction, it’s permanent. Furthermore, if a Public Intoxication charge isn’t dismissed, it continues to be a part of your criminal record indefinitely. This kind of charge can affect things like security clearances, getting into college, and getting financial aid for students.

Facing an accusation of public intoxication in Texas can greatly affect how others perceive you and your lifestyle. If you find yourself arrested and charged with this offense in Texas, it’s a good idea to reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how to handle these kinds of cases. If you or someone you care about is dealing with a public intoxication charge, the Texas Criminal Defense Group can explain exactly what this criminal charge means, help you understand what you should do next, and work on building a strong defense to get the best possible result in your legal case.