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Is Drinking in Public Illegal in Texas

If you’re like me, you may like to enjoy an occasional drink after work with some of your friends and coworkers. Depending upon where you work though, you and your buddies may not be permitted to crack a cold one right in the middle of the office or warehouse as you all clock out. Or, you may not feel up to driving over to the local bar or restaurant, parking, and fighting your way through the crowd and up to the bar just to shell out $3 of your hard-earned money for a single beer. Therefore, let’s say you and your coworkers simply grab a case of beer from the corner store and go to town in the parking lot or back alley. If the police were to roll up on you, and assuming you are not intoxicated, have you broken the law?

Public Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages

Most people would probably say yes, incorrectly assuming that it’s illegal to walk down the street drinking a beer in Texas. However, this is not always the case. In Texas, public consumption of alcoholic beverages is only prohibited in public places in state parks and where a city has specifically made it illegal. Therefore, as long as you are not drinking in a public place in a state park, it is not illegal to drink in public unless you are drinking in a place where a city has specifically made it illegal.

In What Areas Can a City Prohibit You from Drinking in Public?

A city council may petition the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to adopt an order to prohibit the possession of an open container or the public consumption of alcoholic beverages in the central business district of the city. Central business district is defined as a compact and contiguous geographical area of a municipality in which at least 90 percent of the land is used or zoned for commercial purposes and that is the area that has historically been the primary location in the municipality where business has been transacted.

As of January 1, 2013, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has adopted an order prohibiting drinking in public for the following cities:

  • Amarillo
  • Claude
  • College Station
  • Corpus Christi
  • Dallas
  • El Paso
  • Farmersville
  • Giddings
  • Groveton
  • Houston
  • Hubbard
  • Jefferson
  • McAllen
  • Rosenberg
  • San Angelo
  • San Antonio
  • San Marcos
  • Shamrock
  • Sinton
  • South Padre Island
  • Taylor
  • Timpson
  • Vernon

Essentially, this means that simply drinking in a public place in a city other than those listed above is never illegal. Furthermore, drinking in a public place in a city that is listed above is only illegal if you are drinking within the central business district of the city.

If it Isn’t Illegal to Drink in Public, why do the Police Still Hassle Me?

Police will usually hassle people for drinking in a public place for one of two reasons…their ignorance or your own. Unfortunately, many police officers are simply not familiar with the law, which is somewhat understandable. As a criminal defense attorney, I have to look up codes, statutes, and laws every single day. Nobody, including an attorney, police officer, or rocket scientist could possibly memorize every single law in Texas and its application inside and out.

Second, most people are not familiar with the law and will submit to a police officer’s authority when they are approached or detained by one. Some police officers will use the fact that you are drinking in a public place as a reason to detain you, run your license and vehicle registration, check for warrants, and investigate other possible criminal activity such as public intoxication or driving while intoxicated offenses. Essentially, the police may use your drinking in public as an opportunity to try and “up-sell” you into an actual criminal offense.

What Should You do if You are Detained for Drinking in Public and Arrested for a Criminal Offense?

If you have been detained by a police officer, investigated for drinking in a public place, and subsequently arrested for a different criminal offense, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. Even though you may have been charged with violating a valid Texas law, if the police unlawfully detained, searched, or seized you or your property, a skilled criminal defense attorney can challenge your arrest and the evidence against you and ensure that your legal rights are protected. Contact Mark O’Bryan at 972-372-4054 today to achieve the best possible outcome available to you.

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