When Drinking In Public Becomes a Crime

Texas is a big state with a whole lot to do, see and learn. Here’s a fun fact you might not have known about: in Texas, it’s not illegal to drink in public. Does that mean you can freely drink as much as you want wherever you go in Texas? No, there are specifics to the alcohol laws in Texas which must be adhered to.


Drinking in Public: the Basics

The state of Texas does not have a ban on public drinking, but that doesn’t mean the same is true for individual cities. Over a dozen cities in Texas, including larger ones like Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, have bans on public drinking as approved by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code (TABC). However, these bans aren’t as restrictive as they might seem. In said cities, you cannot drink publicly in the central business district. This means if you go outside of the perimeter comprised overwhelmingly of commercial buildings (90 percent), you are free to drink alcohol out in the open. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t restrictions there as well.

Public Intoxication

Intoxication in Texas is defined as having a blood alcohol content beyond the legal limit of 0.08. However, this alone is not enough to warrant an arrest. In Texas, you are in violation of the law while publicly intoxicating if you are actively being a danger to yourself and/or any others, or if you could be reasonably seen as being a danger to yourself and/or any others.

Additionally, standard intoxication laws apply for certain tasks, such as operating a motor vehicle or other transportation while intoxicated. Open containers laws also ban possession of open or empty containers of alcohol in the passenger section of a car, with some exceptions (such as in a taxi or limo).

Public Environments

A public place in Texas is simply any place that the public can access readily. This can include churches, hospitals and schools. If you are openly intoxicated in these environments or any other public place, then you are liable to be arrested for public intoxication. It is also illegal to drink publicly in state parks and other grounds where drinking has specifically been deemed illegal.


If you are arrested for public intoxication, what happens to you can be left up to the arresting officer. They are likely to take you to a local jail for holding. If the effects of your intoxication have worn off, and you are no longer deemed a threat to yourself or others, then you are likely to be released. If, however, your levels of intoxication are severe, then they might administer you to a treatment facility for substance abuse. Admission to such facilities will be based on you willing to receive treatment and the facility itself accepting you.

Legal Defenses

Should you choose to challenge your public intoxication charge, there are a couple of defenses you can make. One is challenging the notion that you were intoxicated. For instance, if the arresting officer can’t offer a credible testimony regarding your supposed intoxication, you have a much better chance of winning the case.

Whether you are a threat to yourself or anyone else is subjective, so another reasonable defense can be construed by arguing that your intoxication was not at a high enough level to be a legitimate threat to anyone. If you only have the testimony of one arresting officer, that will help your case. Additionally, it can help if you have other witnesses who can testify to you not being a threat to yourself or anyone else.

Conviction Consequences

Public intoxication is a misdemeanor offense in Texas, and the maximum penalty is a $500 fine. However, that does not mean it should be taken lightly. Having a misdemeanor on your record can still have negative effects for things such as employment. The best thing you can do to avoid the hassle of a public intoxication charge is to not drink in public or go out in public while intoxicated. If you do find yourself drinking in public, you should be mindful of how much you are drinking and stop before you become intoxicated.

Hiring an Attorney

If you are arrested for public intoxication in Texas, consult legal counsel as soon as possible in order to receive the best possible outcome for your case. Whether you ultimately decide to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest, you will want a dedicated and professional lawyer by your side to offer advice and counsel. With their legal expertise, you will be able to form a case that is hopefully successful.

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