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Public Intoxication: A Former DA Tells You How To Beat A Public Intoxication Charge (2021)


If you have been arrested for Public Intoxication in Tarrant County, Texas, call The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC now to protect your good name. It is critical that you hire an experienced and aggressive public intoxication attorney that can work to negotiate a result that will allow you to have this arrest expunged from your criminal record.

It is not illegal to have a few alcoholic drinks and walk through The Stockyards or Downtown Fort Worth. It is also not illegal to have one too many and enjoy yourself on the dance floor at Billy Bob’s. In fact, in most eating and drinking establishments, there is a hope and expectation that patrons will have a few drinks with their meal. However, if your alcohol use upset’s someone to the point they call the police, you could be looking at an arrest for Public Intoxication.

Under Texas Penal Code, Section 49.02, a person commits an offense of public intoxication if the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger themselves or another.

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

As you can see from the Texas Penal Code, just being intoxicated in public is not enough, by itself, to be convicted of Public Intoxication. The law requires that you must have also endangered yourself or another person. Similar to Driving While Intoxicated, Texas law defines “intoxication” as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher or having lost the normal use of your mental or physical faculties by reason alcohol in your body.

Is A Breath Or Blood Test Required For Public Intoxication?

No! It is a common misconception that a police officer must provide you an opportunity to give a breath or blood test to obtain a conviction for public intoxication. Unfortunately, it is quite common that police officers do not offer a breath or blood test to citizens arrested for public intoxication. As such, your public intoxication arrest may be based solely upon the police officer’s subjective opinion and subject to cross examination in a court of law.

For example, if a police officer cannot articulate facts that specifically indicate intoxication (bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, unsteady on their feet) then your case is a viable candidate for an acquittal before a jury. This is particularly important when there is a video of the interaction between you and the police officer. We have seen many instances where a police officer does not like something about someone’s attitude or behavior, and they choose to arrest them for public intoxication. After an examination of the police reports and the video, it becomes clear that the arrestee was not intoxicated, and the arrest was unlawful. Remember, the State of Texas must prove the elements of public intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to prove each element of the charge must result in a not guilty verdict at a jury trial.

Additionally, whether you endangered yourself or others is a fact issue that is also based upon the police officer’s opinion and subject to challenge in a court of law. Opinions are always subject to be analyzed and opinion can routinely be shown to be wrong. For example, if you were highly intoxicated but remained to yourself and did not create a scene or engage in disruptive or dangerous activity, it is highly likely you could be found not guilty by a Tarrant County Jury.

Quite commonly, when police officers are called out to a scene, they will arrest someone who has been drinking regardless of whether they are truly intoxicated or posing a danger to themselves or another person. Every element discussed here must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the State of Texas.

For example, it is a common tactic by the Fort Worth Police Department to hang out by the 7th Street area in Fort Worth, Texas and wait for people coming out of bars and restaurants near closing time. Police officers will look for anyone walking out of the bar that looks or smells like they have been drinking and start questioning them. This tactic leads to a quick and easy arrest and Fort Worth counts on this tactic by having vans and vehicles ready in the parking lot for quick transport to the jail. What if you had only one or two drinks? What if you had the normal use of your mental and physical faculties and were not falling, yelling, or causing a disruption? Unfortunately, although you may have a good legal defense for your public intoxication lawyer, it may not save you from spending a night in the Fort Worth jail after a public intoxication arrest.

Under Texas criminal law, Public Intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor that is punishable by no jail time and a fine only of up to $500. Although jail time is not an option with Public Intoxication, a public intoxication conviction can result in grave consequences ranging from disqualification for certain insurance policies to loss of employment or job opportunities.

The most important consequence is that you were arrested for public intoxication. If you had merely been cited without arrest, you might not have to worry about it affecting your job or future employment prospects. However, because you were booked into jail and fingerprinted, you now have a criminal record where it is public record for anyone to see that you have been arrested for an intoxication-related offense. It is critical that your Public Intoxication case is resolved in a manner that does not result in a criminal conviction and that your criminal record is expunged.

What Can A Public Intoxication Lawyer Do For You?

We routinely get asked a question about whether it is worth hiring a lawyer to fight a public intoxication case. It really depends. If you already have a criminal record and it does not bother you to have a public intoxication charge on your criminal record, there is no reason to hire a criminal lawyer. However, if you are interested in protecting your criminal record and ensuring the public intoxication case is handled properly, an experienced and aggressive public intoxication lawyer provides you many advantages.

If you represent yourself at a public intoxication court setting, you will be given two options: pay the fine or go to trial. What the judge and prosecutor will not tell you is that if you pay the fine, you are entering a plea of guilty, and the public intoxication arrest will forever be on your criminal record. If you care about your criminal record, DO NOT PAY THE FINE! If you represent yourself and you refuse to pay the fine, the prosecutor will then force you to set your public intoxication case for a jury trial.

If you take a public intoxication case to a jury trial and you choose to represent yourself, you may be at a disadvantage. You may know without a doubt in your mind that you are innocent of the charges, but the jury will only get to hear evidence that the judge rules to be admissible in court. Do you know the Texas Rules of Evidence? If not, the municipal prosecutor will use your lack of knowledge of the rules of evidence and other court rules against you by objecting to every request and attempt that you make to clear your name. Unfortunately, you are likely to be outmanned and outmaneuvered when the judge is following the prosecutor’s lead on objections and limiting instructions to the jury.

The solution to being treated unfairly in the Fort Worth municipal court or any other municipal court in Tarrant or Dallas County is to hire the best public intoxication attorney you can find. The best public intoxication lawyers have a reputation in the municipal court for knowing how to try a criminal case and this reputation helps the attorney negotiate favorable results without a jury trial.

If you experienced and aggressive public intoxication lawyer takes over the case, additional options could be available that you might not have if you represent yourself.

For example, there are three general ways that you can get your public intoxication case dismissed:

  1. Dismissal of charges for lack of evidence – if you choose to hire The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC, we will send in a letter of representation and gain access to all evidence surrounding the case. We will share this information with you and get your input regarding what is accurate and inaccurate. After examining the police reports and videos, there may be evidence establishing reasonable doubt regarding whether you were intoxicated or a danger to yourself or others. We would make use of this evidence and look to negotiate a dismissal of the charges based upon the prosecutor’s inability to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes police officers are sloppy or inaccurate on their police report and the video will expose the truth regarding what happened, and this can provide us an opportunity to get the case dismissed.
  2. Conditional dismissal – what if the facts of the case are not as favorable for you? What if it appears you had been drinking? Is there still a way to get the criminal case dismissed? One strategy is for your public intoxication attorney to negotiate directly with the municipal prosecutor for a conditional dismissal. A conditional dismissal is a resolution to your public intoxication case where you receive a dismissal of charges in exchange for completing certain terms and conditions. For example: taking an alcohol awareness class, community service hours, etc.
  3. Not Guilty verdict at a jury trial – you always have the right to a jury trial. If the prosecutor on your public intoxication case refuses to be reasonable in their negotiating, your public intoxication lawyer can force the State to bring the officer to court to testify against you and prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the police officer refuses to show up and testify at the trial, your public intoxication case will be dismissed. If the police officer does testify but is unable to persuade the jury that you were intoxicated and a danger to yourself or others, then the jury will be required to render a not guilty verdict.

Does My Public Intoxication Come Off My Record After Dismissal?

No! A common misconception in criminal law is that a dismissed case automatically clears your criminal record. Unfortunately, that is not the case. If you have fought your public intoxication case and your case was dismissed or received a not guilty verdict at trial, you must still file a petition for expunction to destroy all the records associated with your arrest and charges.

Immediately, upon a not guilty verdict or dismissal of public intoxication charges, you should contact your criminal attorney and start the process of filing a petition for expunction. Although each county in Texas has their own filing fees, Tarrant County charges a filing fee starting at $425.00 to electronically file the petition and request a hearing. After filing the petition, your public intoxication attorney must attend an expunction hearing with the judge and prosecutor and obtain a certified copy of the signed judicial orders establishing all records related to your public intoxication arrest and charges are to be destroyed. This paperwork is provided to all the agencies that have record of your arrest:, local municipal agencies, Texas Department of Public Safety, FBI, and other relevant agencies. From start to finish, the expunction process takes approximately 30 – 45 days in Tarrant County, Texas.

Are you a first-time offender? Do you have a clean criminal record but now you are facing an arrest and charge for public intoxication? Let The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC help you get this Public Intoxication dismissed and cleared from your criminal record. Our team of Former Prosecutors with over 80 years of criminal law experienced stand ready to protect your future. Call Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC now for a free consultation at 817-826-9905.