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Driving While Intoxicated FAQ

What does it mean to be ‘intoxicated’ under Texas Law?


What does it mean to be ‘intoxicated’ under Texas Law: in Texas, is ‘public intoxication’ the same thing as DWI (driving while intoxicated)? 

No. Public Intoxication and Driving While Intoxicated are two different charges under Texas law.

Intoxication isn’t always the same in Texas. Under Texas laws for driving while intoxicated (DWI), you do not have to have as much alcohol in your system (officially your BAC, or blood alcohol content) as you do to be found publically intoxicated in Texas.

‘Intoxicated’ is a word that has been defined by the Texas Legislature in Texas Penal Code Section 49.01(2). “Intoxicated” means:

(A) not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or
(B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

Behind the wheel in Texas and with a BAC of .08 or higher, and you are legally considered to be driving while intoxicated and subject to criminal penalties which can involve incarceration, monetary fines, and loss of your driver’s license.

In other situations, if you are in public and appear to be under the influence, then Texas law finds you to be ‘publicly intoxicated’ if you are a danger to yourself or others. The punishment for public intoxication is a maximum fine of $500, no jail time is involved (it’s a Class C Misdemeanor).

From Texas Penal Code Section 49.02:

PUBLIC INTOXICATION. (a) 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.
(a-1) For the purposes of this section, a premises licensed or permitted under the Alcoholic Beverage Code is a public place.
(b) 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.
(c) Except as provided by Subsection (e), an offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
(d) An offense under this section is not a lesser included offense under Section 49.04.
(e) An offense under this section committed by a person younger than 21 years of age is punishable in the same manner as if the minor committed an offense to which Section 106.071, Alcoholic Beverage Code, applies.

Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994. Amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1013, Sec. 12, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.Amended by:Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 68, Sec. 25, eff. September 1, 2007.

So, bottom line, if you are drunk in Texas, it’s best to get caught anywhere else but behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

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