It’s one of those discretionary charges, one that police are empowered to enforce when they see fit, and one that’s “ripe for abuse” according to the Austin Chronicle. There are thousands of public intoxication (PI) arrests in Austin every single year, most of them originate in the Downtown Entertainment District. But many of those thousands of charges are ultimately dropped and many result in complaints against the officer who brought them.
The Austin Chronicle has an in depth piece on the crime of public intoxication this week. It’s a Class C misdemeanor, which means it typically only carries a fine. But its standard procedure for someone charged with PI to be arrested and taken to jail for at least a few hours. And when the night begins with good times and friends but ends with handcuffs and jail bars, it definitely creates traumatic memories for years to come.
The account of a PI arrest often differs depending on who you ask. The arrestee usually states they did nothing wrong and often claims their intoxication was questionable. The cops, however, paint a different picture.
Milan Luna is just one victim of the downtown PI charges, after having a single beer she was pulled from a friend’s truck, allegedly slammed against a semi, and had her wrist broken by police. Though she states the police told her repeatedly that she was drunk, she told them repeatedly, that she was not. Her case was eventually thrown out for lack of evidence but her career as a bass player has been put on hold due to the wrist injury.
Fighting criminal charges when the police account of the offense differs widely from your interpretation, and perhaps what actually happened, can seem impossible. But, it’s not impossible. Even in cases where the penalty is nothing more than a fine, clearing your good name is your defense attorney’s job.
Under the law, public intoxication is defined as appearing in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that they may endanger themselves or someone else. There’s no breath test or other measure of intoxication required to be found guilty of this offense, however. It’s merely up to the officer’s judgment.
Like disorderly conduct, it’s easy to see how PI could be levied against someone who is merely aggravating police officers or not moving as quickly as they would like. Being a cop must be a difficult job, but some officers take their authority too seriously, doling out charges when their ego is hurt rather than when a law is broken.
It’s within their discretion to decide when to arrest someone and when to move on to the next thing. If you’re at the other end of this discretion, that judgment call is something that can affect your for years.
If you are facing charges and you question the officer’s version of events or simply don’t think the charges were warranted, contact our attorneys today to discuss your case.