What Is the Distinction Between Public Intoxication and Driving While Intoxicated?

The state of Texas makes a difference between public intoxication and driving while intoxicated. Public intoxication is a minor criminal offense in most cases, especially if you are a first-time convict. You can be arrested for public intoxication if the investigating officer believes that you are influenced by drugs (especially illegal substances). 

However, it takes several public intoxication convictions before you get severe penalties. 

The same cannot be applied for people who were arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Both charges are evaluated on prior records, but driving while intoxicated is much more severe and can result in a felony when certain circumstances witnessed by the arresting officer. A felony charge can be considered if you (no matter your criminal history) were driving while intoxicated while having an underage passenger, for example. 

Getting charged with public intoxication means that you have to be more intoxicated than you would be with driving while intoxicated. If you’ve been charged with either of these offences, contact an experienced DWI attorney in Houston, Texas right away.

Public intoxication

Public intoxication charges in Texas care not filed because a person was drinking in public, even if he or she is obviously drunk. If an officer responds to such a case, they will rarely administer a breathalyzer, like they do in a DWI case. The testimony of the officer is often the evidence recorded. Since such charges are relatively minor, officers will not waste resources (gathering evidence like blood samples) in public intoxication charges. However, when a suspect acts in a way to endanger other people’s lives or their own, the officer will arrest the individual for public intoxication.  

Driving while intoxicated

Driving while intoxicated is considered a serious crime in Texas, at least more serious than public intoxication. And while in public intoxication cases, there is no blood alcohol concentration level allowed by the state to assume that someone is intoxicated, it is not the situation in a matter of driving while intoxicated.  

You will face charges if driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. If you refuse a breathalyzer, you risk having your driver’s privileges suspended for at least 180 days. If your BAC shows of .15 or higher, you will be charged with a higher-level offense. 

Drivers with BAC of .08 can get higher charges if they have a child passenger in the vehicle.

Intoxication assault charges can be filed if an accident as caused by a drunk driver. The penalties often are long jail time and personal injury lawsuits. If a driver owns illegal drugs in their system, they will also be charged for intoxicated driving.  


Penalties for public intoxication can go up to $500, and a detox jail stay. The penalty depends mostly on the circumstances associated with the public intoxication charge. 

Penalties for driving under the influence, on the other hand, are far more severe. If you are a first time offender, you can get jail time and a high fine. Your driver’s license suspension can be suspended for driving while intoxicated. The length of the suspension is based on how serious was your DWI case (if there are victims, injured people, an accident).  

The state of Texas requires multiple offenders to serve mandatory minimum jail time. It will depend on the material case factors of the arrest and if the intoxicated driver caused an accident. Deadly accidents can result in manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges, which lead to severe penalties for up to twenty years in jail. 

Public intoxication prosecutions are not always cases for legal counseling, but the same does not apply for driving while intoxicated. If your blood test shows the presence of controlled substances or illegal drugs, the state may proceed with driving under the influence charges. This goes even if there is no alcohol in your blood. 

Driving under the influence is a serious charge in Texas, and the penalties are severe. Going through this process alone can be confusing, complicated, and time-consuming.

The best thing is to seek legal help from a DWI attorney who has experience in such cases and who will know what steps to take in order to create a good defense for your case. 

If you are looking for good DWI attorneys at Houston, our team at Eddington & Worley offers you a trusted, experienced and skilled lawyers. We are approaching your case and work dedicatedly and with compassion.

Our mission is to help you get the best outcome in court.

Call our office today and schedule your initial consultation. We are expecting you. 

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