Bedford Public Intoxication Lawyer

You’re careful not to drink and drive, so you may think that you’re set when it comes to the law. The fact is, however, that public intoxication (PI) charges can apply when you’re simply leaving a pub to hop in your rideshare – or are doing practically anything else. In fact, public intoxication charges are exceptionally common, and a conviction can lead to serious consequences.

The charge of PI comes down to the officer involved forming an opinion – rather than evaluating specific requirements – which makes it a highly subjective matter. If the officer doesn’t like your attitude, for example, it could tip the scale in terms of whether or not you’ll be charged with public intoxication. If you never drink and drive, there is very little chance that you’ll ever be changed with DWI, but making it your policy never to be drunk in public is not enough to safeguard you from PI charges.

Walking home after having dinner and a glass or two of wine should not lead to public intoxication charges, but it's not unheard of. Other common examples of overzealous policing in relation to PI charges include arresting people as they leave bars or restaurants – and sorting the legalities out later. Knowing and protecting your rights is key, and having an experienced Bedford public intoxication lawyer on your side is a great place to start.

When I opened the Fulgham Law Firm – a boutique criminal defense firm – more than a decade ago, it was on the heels of a career as an assistant DA in Tarrant County. In other words, I’m well acquainted with the inner workings of the prosecution. In fact, our legal team includes five additional former prosecutors, and we take a fresh approach to criminal defense that includes carefully assessing the specifics of each case, considering every case from the perspective of the prosecutor, building solid defenses that are difficult to refute, and fiercely advocating for every client’s rights – in pursuit of optimal case resolutions.

We focus the full force of our nearly 80 years of combined experience in criminal law on every case we take on, and it shows. We’re proud of our impressive reputation for favorable case resolutions, and we look forward to including you on our list of highly satisfied clients. We begin by training our collective experience on each new case, which allows us to implement a holistic approach that is as nuanced as it is effective.

Even if you're facing nothing more serious than a fine, it's important to recognize that if you pay the fine, it's an admission of guilt. And because court records are public records, doing so can lead to serious social consequences that you may not have bargained for, including:

  • Having a difficult time getting a job
  • Having trouble renting a place to live or obtaining a home loan
  • Facing consequences related to your professional licensure
  • Damage to your reputation in your community
  • The loss of educational financial aid

If you’ve been hit with a PI charge, take the matter seriously by giving us a call at 817-877-3030 and scheduling your free consultation today.

The Definition of Public Intoxication

There is no law against being drunk on your own property as long as you don't harm or threaten anyone else. It is, however, against the law to be intoxicated when you are out in public, and your condition either makes you a danger to yourself or others – or the police think that your condition makes you a danger to yourself or others. If you meet friends out for a couple of drinks, are in complete control of yourself, and walk home without bothering anyone else in the process, all's good – unless, of course, the police take a different view.

If you’ve hoisted a few too many and are walking home but aren’t walking well, on the other hand, your condition could make you a danger to yourself, and a charge of PI might be justified. The degree to which the police are concerned about your condition generally dictates whether a public intoxication charge is levied. The problem generally lies in the vast discretion that the police wield in relation to these charges.

The Element of Being in a Public Place

In order to be charged with public intoxication, you must be in a public place, but the definition of public places is expansive and includes all the following:

  • Being in a restaurant, bar, or any other kind of establishment
  • Being in a hospital or another kind of medical facility
  • Being in an apartment building or on the grounds of an apartment building
  • Being on a porch
  • Being on a highway, road, or street
  • Being on the sidewalk or another walkway
  • Being on public transportation
  • Being in a parking lot

The Element of Being a Danger to Yourself or Others

The matter of whether you are a danger to yourself or others is a murky area that affords the police a lot of wiggle room. If you are staggering on the side of the road in heavy traffic, you’re clearly at risk of being injured at the very least. But most PI charges are nowhere near this black and white. If you’ve had a few too many drinks, for example, but are quietly waiting on the sidewalk for your ride to pull over and pick you up, you aren’t putting yourself or anyone else in danger, but this is no guarantee that you won’t face a PI charge.

The more aggressive, bothersome, or harassing someone's behavior is, the more likely the police are to levy charges. Such behaviors set the stage for fights, which are interpreted as dangerous. In other words, the police are allowed the leeway to do a considerable amount of interpreting, which can lead to heavy-handed charges.

If You’re Charged with Public Intoxication

Public intoxication is generally a Class C misdemeanor, which comes with a $500 fine. While there is no risk of jail time – other than initially – a conviction can mar your record and, as mentioned, lead to damaging consequences. If you have another PI conviction on your record, the charge can be enhanced to a Class B misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 180 days. When someone who is under the age of 21 is charged with PI, additional consequences include:

  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Community service
  • Mandatory enrollment in an alcohol education class

If You’re Arrested

If you are charged with public intoxication, it means that – in the opinion of the officer – you were intoxicated in a public place and posed a danger to yourself or others. At this point, you can expect all the following:

  • To be arrested and taken to the local police station, where you will go through the booking process
  • If seriously drunk – to be detained while you sober up and are no longer considered a danger to yourself or others
  • To be assigned a court date and released

There Is No Clear Dividing Line

If you are charged with a DWI, it generally means that you were over the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is a clear line. When it comes to intoxication, however, matters are much less clear. It’s basically up to the officer who arrests you to determine whether you’re intoxicated and whether your condition puts you or others at risk. Some of the signs the police rely upon include the following:

  • An uneven or unsteady gait
  • The smell of alcohol on one’s breath
  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech

PI charges are often flimsy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious or that you shouldn’t take them seriously.

Because Bedford police often hate to stop with just one charge, there are a range of charges that often accompany PI charges.

Having an Open Container

It is against the law in the State of Texas to have an open bottle, can, or any other container of alcohol in either the driver or passenger area of a vehicle. It doesn’t matter if the vehicle was in operation at the time or not, and the driver, the passengers, or both can be charged.

Engaging in Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct can apply to just about anything that is considered obnoxious or offensive, including the following:

  • Creating too much noise
  • Making offensive gestures
  • Using abusive or offensive language
  • Exposing oneself
  • Getting into a physical fight or altercation

Harassing Others

The act of intentionally alarming, embarrassing, or annoying someone else can lead to harassment charges, and common examples include the following:

  • Threatening someone else physically or threatening to damage their property
  • Hurling obscenities at someone else
  • Texting, messaging, or calling someone else incessantly

Obstructing a Road or Passageway

It’s also illegal to physically block a road, a highway, a sidewalk, an aisle or hallway, or a building exit or entrance. Passing out and blocking the passage of others can result in the charge of obstructing a road or passageway.

Defense Strategies

While your case will be unique to the circumstances involved, the essence of most public intoxication defenses can be grouped into basic categories.

You Weren’t Intoxicated

Just because the officer who charged you with PI says you were intoxicated does not mean you were, and the burden of proving the matter beyond a reasonable doubt falls to them. This does not necessarily come down to a you said, they said situation. Most officers throughout the State of Texas wear body cameras that should be turned on throughout the course of an investigation. If your behavior is calm and alert, it’s unlikely to support the claim of intoxication. Further, eyewitness testimony can bolster your claim of innocence.

You Weren’t a Danger to Yourself or Others

If you're not driving, you can have a few drinks with no fear of legal repercussions – that's why the authorities encourage you to designate a driver or hire a rideshare. This changes, however, if you become a threat to yourself or others in the process of having those drinks. The prosecution, however, is charged with proving – beyond a reasonable doubt – that you did present a danger, which can be difficult to do when it simply isn't the case.

How a Public Intoxication Attorney Can Help

If you’re charged with PI, turning to the knowledgeable legal guidance of a savvy public intoxication lawyer early on is to your advantage for all the following primary reasons:

  • Your attorney will ensure that you understand the charge you face and will help you navigate the path forward toward a successful case resolution – minus the pesky missteps that too many defendants make.
  • Your attorney will carefully strategize a solid defense that puts the prosecution on the hook in terms of proving that your public intoxication put you or someone else in danger.
  • Your attorney will skillfully compile all the available evidence – including any evidence that the state would prefer not to share – in defense of your rights and your case’s best possible outcome.
  • Your attorney will engage in focused negotiations with the prosecution – attempting to have the charge against you dismissed before it goes any further.

Fighting the public intoxication charge you are facing can help you keep your record clean, help you avoid difficult social consequences, and allow you to stand up for your rights – all of which are important.

Call Us Right Now To Get Help

(817) 813-8013

An Experienced Bedford Public Intoxication Lawyer Is on Your Side

At the Fulgham Law Firm, our Bedford criminal defense lawyers have a unique perspective that comes from our background in prosecution, and that allows us to go deeper in terms of the state's strategies and approach to your case, which can lead to significant advantages for you. To schedule a free case evaluation, give us a call at 817-877-3030 or contact us online today.