Under the Driving While Intoxicated law in Texas, Penal Code 49.04 (a), DWI is defined as occurring when “the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.” In order for you to be convicted of DWI, each part of this should be required to be true. Thus, operating your vehicle in a “public place” is a requirement for a DWI conviction.
In the law, a “public place” means a place that the public can access, like streets, highways, and public areas of buildings and transit centers. While the term “public place” may seem to exclude private property, the term is not nearly so limited in Texas law. For example, private parking lots or other areas open to public passers-by are considered to be “public places” for DWI purposes. In Texas, there has been a growing trend toward softening the understanding of “public place” to allow DWI prosecutions in a greater number of areas. For example, a gated community can be considered a public place. A private road that is shared with other residents may also be considered a public place if the street is open to the public.
More difficult cases relate to DWI arrests if you are in your car in your driveway at your home; these cases often relate to the presence of public passers-by, particularly pedestrians on the sidewalk.
If you are facing DWI charges or have been arrested for DWI in Texas, you don’t need to try to figure this out alone. An experienced DWI lawyer can help you gather the facts you need and protect your rights.