Is it possible for me to get charges dropped in my public intoxication case?

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Is it possible for me to get charges dropped in my public intoxication case?

I was arrested a couple of days ago for public intoxication. I was a passenger in a vehicle that got pulled over. I drank 1 beer about an hour prior. I had 3 open containers in the back seat of the truck. I had an unloaded gun in the glove box, which is legal under TX law, unless under the influence. The officer poured out the open containers and took the gun. He said he could have charged me with open containers and unlawful carrying of a firearm, which is a felony. However he only charged me with public intox. He did not conduct and sobriety tests on me whatsoever. Can it be dropped?

Asked on February 15, 2011 under Criminal Law, Texas

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In TX, unlike most states, it is against the law to be drunk, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing.  You don’t have to be fighting or causing any other problems in order to be cited for "Public Intoxication".  And unlike drunk driving laws, this PI law doesn’t define what constitutes being drunk.  Whether a person is or is not intoxicated is based on the officer's judgment; no field sobriety tests or breathalyzer must be administered.

The following is an excerpt from the Public Intoxication Statute of Texas:

Under 49.02 "Public Intoxication" the phrase "Public Intoxication" means:

"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."

"Intoxicated" is defined as: not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

As to what "endanger" means is not clear.  This term is vague.  However, the fact that you were merely a pssenger in the car would seem to negate that you were any kind of danger to either yourself or the driver. 

Your next step should be to consult directly with an attorney in your area (depending on your finances, one may or may not be appointed to you).  Presenta ll of the facts of your case to them and see what they advise as to your best course of action.  Skilled and experienced counsel may be able to offer a defense to the charge and get it dismissed. 

Additionally, even if an attorney cannot get the charge thrown the good news is that you are 19.  This offense is normally considered to be a Class C misdemeanor but for a minor the punishment terms are the same as if you committed the offense of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor.  The maximum penalty for an MIP is usually around $500, a suspended license until you are 21, and community service depending on your past history and the opinion of the judge.  The judges may be more lenient depending on your specific situation.

Note:  Since money seems to be an is an issue, if you are not appointed a PD, see if you qualify for Legal Aid or see if they can recommend someone to help you.  Also, check if there is a law school nearby to where you live; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Finally, you contact the local Bar Association in your county; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances.


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