You were out celebrating and the next thing you know you are in handcuffs, having your fingerprints taken, posing for a mugshot and spending hours in a jail cell. Most of our clients who have been arrested for public intoxication have not had any previous problems with the law and certainly have never been arrested; they are scared, embarrassed and understandably concerned about how this will affect their future.

Public intoxication, sometimes called a PI, is a Class C misdemeanor that is issued by an officer who believes you are intoxicated in a public place to the extent that you pose a danger to yourself or others. The intoxicant can be alcohol, drugs and/or any other substance that causes the loss of your physical or mental faculties. Unlike a DWI charge, there is no .08 threshold for intoxication, which means it is rare that a breathalyzer or other test for intoxication will be used.

Public intoxication charges are Class C misdemeanors with a punishment range of up to a $500 fine and no jail time. Because public intoxication charges appear to have minimal consequences, some people feel it is better to just plea the case to “get it over with.” This can be a serious mistake and pose problems for your future.

A public intoxication conviction will leave a lasting reminder of the event in an arrest record and mugshot that can be easily found by schools, potential employers, apartments, friends, and families. In most cases we can get a public intoxication charge dismissed and eligible for an expunction to erase the records.  An expunction means there is NO record of the arrest, NO record of the charge, and allows you to legally deny that this unfortunate event ever occurred.


It is rare that the arresting officer will perform a sobriety test because there is no threshold that needs to be met under the statute. The standard is that the officer believes you to be a threat to yourself or others. The fact that a sobriety test was not performed does not mean that the charge will be dismissed. 

Public places includes any place that a member of the public has a right to be. For example, a bar, a public street or sidewalk or a park are classic examples but "public places" also includes passengers traveling in a vehicle on a public road, the common areas of an apartment or condominium complex or even the front porch of a residence. 

After an arrest, you will be brought before a magistrate and most people will plead no contest or guilty. This will result in a conviction and a permanent record of the charge and arrest. We can have this plea set aside; however, we must make this request within 10 days of the plea. If you made a plea in jail, you need to contact us immediately.

The most common question that we get is how will this charge affect my future? If your case is dismissed, though either a straight dismissal or after successful completion of probation or deferred disposition, you can apply for an expunction of the charge. You can also apply for expunction if you are acquitted or found not guilty at trial. An expunction is a separate action where the court orders the records related to the charge are to be destroyed. This includes the arrest records and reports. After expunction, you can also legally deny that the charge occurred. This is important when completing applications for jobs, schools, housing or financial aid/loans.

Click here for more information on expunctions.  

If you were younger than 21 years old when you were arrested for public intoxication, you have some additional concerns. For example, a conviction may mean a loss of your driving privileges or a delay in obtaining a license if you have not yet applied for a driver’s license. In addition, unlike public intoxication charges for adults 21 years old or older,  punishment can be enhanced with fines of up to $2,000.00 and a jail sentence of up to 180 days or a combination of both.

If you have been charged with public intoxication in Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas or one of the surrounding cities, a criminal defense attorney at Hawkins & Walker is ready to help you with legal advice and representation.

Schedule a Free, Confidential Case Evaluation with one of our award-winning criminal defense attorneys. 

If you are facing serious criminal accusations, whether a felony or misdemeanor, state or federal offense, one of our criminal defense lawyers can help you understand your legal options. We are committed to pursuing justice on behalf of all our clients, no matter how difficult or complex your situation may be. We offer completely confidential, cost-free case evaluations to learn more about the specifics of your circumstances. 

Call 817.877.3355 or click the contact button below to schedule an appointment with a criminal defense attorney today.

Free Case Evaluation Form