What is Public Intoxication in Houston, Texas?

Public intoxication is, as the name suggests, the criminal offense of being intoxicated in public. It is a criminal offense in Houston as well as elsewhere in Texas, and an arrest will likely result in a jail time of at least a few hours even if you are never convicted. A skilled Houston criminal defense attorney might be able to win you an acquittal or at least prevent you from having a criminal record.


The purposes of the public intoxication law include:

  • To prevent the intoxicated person from injuring himself (falling off a curb into incoming traffic, for example)
  • To detain an intoxicated person before he gets behind the wheel of a car or commits some other crime that he would not have considered if he had been sober.
  • To eliminate the public nuisance caused by obnoxious, intrusive or rude intoxicated individuals

Elements of Public Intoxication

1. Intoxication: This can be proven in any one of the following ways:

  • A Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more (the same as for DWI)
  • Lacking the normal use of your mental or physical facilities as a result of intoxication.

Note that the intoxicant need not be alcohol – it could be a prescription drug, an illegal drug, alcohol, or some combination of any two or three of these. Note also that even if you are intoxicated solely with alcohol, you do not have to be have a BAC of 0.08 or higher as long as you are mentally or physically impaired. You can be convicted of public intoxication without even being administered a breathalyzer test.

2. You must appear in a public place. Note that bars, taverns and nightclubs are considered public places under Texas law, which means that you could be arrested for public intoxication inside a bar while drinking a beverage that you purchased legally.

3. Your intoxication must render you a potential threat to yourself or others. No immediate danger is required – a potential threat is enough.

The Treatment Defense

You can beat a charge of public intoxication if you can prove that the intoxicant was administered to you for therapeutic purposes by a licensed physician. If you are intoxicated with two different substances, however – alcohol plus a prescription drug administered by a licensed physician, for example – this defense might not apply.


Public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor in Houston as well as elsewhere in Texas. It can result in a fine of up to $500 – the exact amount depends on a number of factors including any prior offenses. If you plead guilty, you may be able to secure Deferred Adjudication from the judge, which will prevent you from having a criminal record. Enhanced penalties can apply to juveniles (under 21).

Getting Help

Houston DUI and criminal defense attorney Mario Madrid has enjoyed nearly two decades practicing law. He is a member of the National College of DUI Defense Attorneys and he has been certified as a specialist in Criminal Law. If you have been arrested for public intoxication in the Houston metro area, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.

What is Public Intoxication in Houston, Texas?

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