Public Intoxication (PI)

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The Law
Punishment Range
Explanation of PI Law
Defending PI Charges


The Law

TEXAS PENAL CODE 49.02 - Public Intoxication

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.

"Intoxicated" is defined as: not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

Punishment Range

An offense under this section is a Class C Misdemeanor. An individual adjudged guilty of a Class C misdemeanor shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $500.00. However, for a minor, the punishment terms are in the same manner as if he committed the offense of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor.

A Minor convicted of Public Intoxication faces a driver's license suspension in addition to the criminal charge. According to the Texas Alcohol Beverage code chapter 106, "Individuals under 21 years of age, which are convicted of the following offenses [PI, MIP, etc.], will receive a 30 day suspension of their driver's license." The 30 day suspension applies to the first conviction for the offense. If a minor under the age of 21 is convicted twice of public intoxication or any of the other named offenses then the minors drivers license will be suspended for 60 days. If the minor is convicted a third time for one of the named offenses including public intoxication then the minors drivers license will be suspended for 180 days.

In addition to the license suspension, minors under the age of 21 convicted of public intoxication or one of the other named offenses will be required to attend an Alcohol Awareness Course. If the minor fails to take this Alcohol Awareness Course then the minor's driver's license will be suspended for 180 days. Subsequent offenses may result in a one year driver's license suspension.

Explanation of PI Law

The charge of PI requires that the person be intoxicated to the degree that he/she is a danger to him/herself or another person. The law enforcement theory is that being publicly intoxicated makes a person vulnerable to robbery, assault, and a number of other difficulties. For instance, there could be the possibility of tripping on a curb while walking home and being hit by a car. Or an intoxicated person may plan to drive home or ride in a vehicle driven by another intoxicated driver. As for endangering another person, starting a fight or throwing a bottle in the general direction of another person at a bar would constitute endangerment.

A person may commit the offense of PI by being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This may include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications or even aerosol sprays.

In most cases, an individual charged with PI will be arrested and spend at least 6 hours in jail. However, a police officer could merely issue a citation and release the individual to the care of an adult who agrees to assume responsibility for the individual.

An individual arrested for PI will be required to post bail to get released from jail. "Bail" is the security given by the accused that he/she will appear in court to hear the charges brought by the court.

Defending PI Charges

There are four ways to win a PI case. 1) Convince the prosecutor/judge/jury that you were not intoxicated; 2) Convince the prosecutor/judge/jury that you were not in a public place; 3) Convince the prosecutor/judge/jury that you were not a danger to yourself or others; 4) Raise an affirmative defense that the intoxication was due to prescribed prescription drugs and alcohol was not involved.

It is a defense to prosecution for PI that the alcohol or drugs were administered for therapeutic purposes and as part of the person's professional medical treatment by a licensed physician. However, keep in mind that mixing alcohol and prescription medications is contrary to most medical advice.

Most successfully defended PI cases are on the theory that the person was not a danger. Simply being intoxicated in public is not enough to be convicted of public intoxication, you must also be a danger to yourself or to another person. This is where a lawyer can help. An effective lawyer will examine all the facts in your case and work to convince the prosecutor that you were not intoxicated to the point of danger. Again, if no "danger" then no public intoxication.

We Can Help

At the Law Office of Justin Copeland we are dedicated to defending the rights of those in need, and we are committed to the presumption of innocence. We believe in our clients and will aggressively defend your rights, no matter the situation. We recognize that every case is different, and we will build a custom defense strategy based solely on the merits of your case. You can rest assured that we will aggressively fight for your rights.

While we deal with the legal issues in your case, we fully understand the pressures and anxieties that you have to deal with on a day to day basis. We will work to help you through this very difficult time. We are committed to providing you with a helping hand as well as an aggressive legal representation.

Contact an Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer at the Law Office of Justin Copeland Today

At the Law Office of Justin Copeland we believe a client's defense is only as good as the relationship with his or her attorney. This relationship is best developed through open communication. For this reason, the Law Office of Justin Copeland is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Mr. Copeland personally returns all of his phone calls. We urge you to contact us today to setup a free initial consultation.

In the News


KXAN - August 6, 2008


The University Star - June 12, 2008

Contact Us

Travis County Office
502 W. 13th St.
Austin, TX 78701

Phone: 512.850.4529
Fax: 512.628.6010
Email: info@jcopelandlaw.com

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