How Serious is a Public Intoxication Charge in Texas?
Posted in Criminal defense on May 30, 2017
If you’ve been recently charged with public intoxication, you’re may be wondering if this is considered a serious offense. Public intoxication punishment in Texas depends on a variety of factors, including the number of previous convictions, the age of the offender, and the setting of the arrest. But it’s also important to remember that many people who are arrested for public intoxication have their charges lessened or even dismissed.
The law provides guidance for public intoxication using the Texas Penal Code, Section 49.02 (c). According to this statute, public intoxication is designated as a class C misdemeanor, except when it’s classified as falling under Section 49.02 (e). Let’s remove the legalese and take a look at these in detail.
Public Intoxication for Those 21 and Older
Section 49.02 (c) applies to those who are age 21 or older at the time of the arrest. If you’re arrested for public intoxication, you may be charged with a class C misdemeanor. Under Texas law, this means you can’t be fined more than $500. On the other hand, if you have two or more prior convictions for public intoxication, a prosecutor may see fit to elevate the charge to a class B misdemeanor. These are more serious, and carry the risk of potential jail time. Maximum punishments for class B misdemeanors include as many as 180 days jail time and fines up to $2000.
Should I Plead Guilty to Public Intoxication?
Many people who face public intoxication charges, particularly if it’s only their first offense, think they should just plead guilty, pay the fine, and get on with their lives. But we caution against doing this. Remember, a conviction will remain on your record and may affect future employment, graduate school admission, or even your ability to obtain a loan. Though it’s only punishable by fines, it’s not wise to think of this like another parking ticket. A conviction can tarnish your character in the eyes of others.
A public intoxication charge might cause concerns about your ability to make responsible decisions. Even if you were just out having fun and got carried away on a lark, a public intoxication arrest happens because an officer believed that you were a potential danger to yourself or others. For this reason, we suggest thinking carefully before pleading guilty.
Public Intoxication for Those 21 or Younger
The law is different when the public intoxication charges are for those younger than 21. The Texas Penal Code states that punishment for minors (in this case, under 21), should be the same as if they committed an offense under the Texas Alcoholic Code. Essentially, this means the following:
- If a minor has two previous convictions for public intoxication, prosecutors may be able to elevate the charge to a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by 180 days in jail and/or fines totaling up to $2000.
- Even if this is a minor’s first offense, prosecutors might be able to move for suspension of a driver’s license or denial of a learner’s permit.
A first-time conviction for public intoxication can result in the suspension of a minor’s driver’s license, driver’s learning permit, or even deny the issuance of a driver’s learning permit. If convicted for a first-time offense, minors can expect at least between $250 and $500 in fines. But it doesn’t stop there – minors must also complete mandatory community service and possibly an alcohol education course.
While public intoxication charges aren’t generally viewed as “serious” crimes, they may still carry penalties that affect your record, as well as your professional, financial, and academic life. We recommend consulting with a criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty to any charge.