Houston DWI Lawyer Breaks Down The Differences Between Public Intoxication And Driving While Intoxicated
Contrary to popular belief, there is a significant difference between driving while intoxicated and public intoxication within the state of Texas. While public intoxication is considered a minor criminal offense in many situations, particularly as a first conviction, this does not mean that problems will not arise for individuals arrested with this charge. This is particularly true if the investigating officer believes the suspect is under the influence of drugs or illegal substances. Moreover, it can take multiple public intoxication convictions before the punishment for the crime is severe. The same, however, cannot be said for people convicted of driving while intoxicated. Despite both charges being evaluated according to a person’s prior criminal record, driving while intoxicated is considered a more serious offense and can result in a felony if certain circumstances are observed by the arresting officer. For example, according to a Houston DWI Lawyer, driving while intoxicated can become a felony charge if the intoxicated individual, irrespective of their criminal history, is arrested with a child passenger.
1. Public Intoxication
A charge of public intoxication in Texas is not filed as a person merely drinking in public, even when they are obviously intoxicated. Arresting officers will rarely administer breathalyzer tests, unlike in the case of driving while intoxicated charge. For a person to be arrested for public intoxication, all one requires is the testimony of the arresting officer for evidence. Due to the fact that the charge is a minor one, many officers do not want to waste resources gathering evidence for public intoxication charges. However, if the suspect is acting erratically and appears to be a danger to themselves or others, resources may be used. If not, public intoxication cases are commonplace for officers.
2. Driving While Intoxicated
A DWI in Texas is a charge far more serious than public intoxication within the state of Texas. To date, there is no blood alcohol concentration level allowing the state to assume a person is intoxicated as part of a public intoxication charge; however, this is not the case with driving while intoxicated charges. If a person is found to be driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration level of .08, they will be charged as driving while intoxicated because this level is above the legal limit. Moreover, people who refuse to complete a breathalyzer test will have their driving privileges suspended for a period of 180 days, as well as be charged with a DWI.
Intoxicated drivers with a blood alcohol concentration level of .15 or above with being charged with a DWI and a higher-level offense. It should also be noted that drivers with a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 can be charged with higher-level charges if there are external circumstances, such as a child riding in the car as a passenger. The intoxication assault charge can be filed if a drunken driver is involved in an accident, and this charge often results in personal injury lawsuits with long-term prison sentences. Drivers found to have illegal drugs in their system may also be charged with the driving while intoxicated offense.
What Are The Penalties Involved?
Penalties for public intoxication charges are typically set at $500 with a mandatory detox jail stay. Of course, this will depend greatly on the circumstances associated with the charge and whether the individual is to be convicted. As can be assumed, the penalties associated with driving while intoxicated charges are much worse. A first-time DWI offender can receive a jail term sentence, along with a high financial penalty.
Moreover, the suspension of the driver’s driving license is a mandatory penalty for DWI charges; however, the length of suspension varies according to the case. If there are multiple offenders, then it is necessary for the people to serve a minimum jail term according to Texas statutes. Once again, this will vary on the material presented in the case and if there is an accident involved. If fatal accidents occur, the individual can be charged with vehicular homicide or manslaughter charges requiring sentences of at most 20 years in prison if charged.