The charge of public intoxication (PI) in Texas is incredibly subjective such that the law is viewed in many circles as the offense often charged for “disrespecting a police officer.” While there is certainly no law against having a negative attitude toward a police officer, there are many people arrested in Texas every year after having little or nothing to drink. Common stories of abuse of the public intoxication law in Fort Worth include people arrested for PI in local bars by officers at the end of a shift to people on the street walking home who have had no more than a single drink.
No Objective Standard for Public Intoxication
The Texas Public Intoxication offense has been widely criticized because the standard is so subjective it permits officers to arrest citizen’s whose only “offense” was to irritate the arresting officer. Under Texas Penal Code §49.02, a person commits the offense of public intoxication if the individual appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger oneself or others. Unlike DWI, there is no requirement that evidence exist that one’s mental or physical faculties are adversely affected such that it affects your driving ability nor is there an objective “per se” standard like a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. This lack of any objective standard means that this provision is subject to abuse.
Frequently an arrest for public intoxication will occur without the police offering to administer field sobriety tests (FSTs) or a blood chemical test of BAC level via breath or blood test. The subjective nature of public intoxication under Texas law means that it is extremely important to retain an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney to expose this lack of evidence to obtain an efficient dismissal of bogus charges. Many police officers on the street will concede that the reason that many people are arrested for public intoxication involves a lack of respect or rude attitude.
Pleading Guilty or No Contest without Legal Advice Can Have Serious Consequences
When you are arrested for public intoxication, you may be given the option to obtain immediate release from jail with the suggestion that you might spend an extended period of time in jail if you do not plead guilty or no contest. Because the veiled threat of a prolonged stay in jail is upsetting and stressful for most people, they often agree to accept the plea deal even if they have not been drinking or have had very little to drink. While this might seem like an appealing option, people frequently get home and study the documents more closely before discovering they have been convicted of public intoxication. This conviction is a matter of public record that may be used by potential employers and landlord. The offense also may be punished by a fine of up to $500. The penalties increase if you have multiple convictions for PI.
At the Fulgham Law Firm P.C., we have challenged convictions under these circumstances and successfully obtained dismissal and expungement of public intoxication records. If you are arrested for public intoxication, we will carefully investigate the facts and seek to arrange your prompt release from custody.
A criminal record can have dire long-term circumstances so pleading guilty or no contest when you have not had much to drink or do not pose a threat to your own safety or the safety of others might not be the best option. We can investigate your situation and advise you regarding the available alternatives given your specific situation. Call the Fulgham Law Firm P.C. at 817-886-3078 to schedule a free confidential consultation with a former prosecutor and experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth.