The Common Law

Big Night Out? Try Deferred Disposition

Our hero goes out with friends for a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Our hero's last memory is dancing up a storm around midnight. The next thing our hero remembers is waking up in the hospital bed the next morning with a killer hangover and a tube stuck in his arm. The story comes together later in the week when our hero receives an ambulance bill and citation for public intoxication. Any ideas on how our hero should deal with the ticket?

It sounds like our hero needs more than just help dealing with his public intoxication ticket. Drinking so hard that you black out and wake up in the hospital can't be healthy. The "hero" needs to address the underlying issues that lead to the excessive drinking and its negative consequences.

From a legal standpoint, it will be very difficult to challenge a public intoxication citation with no memory of the night's events or witnesses to support or explain your behavior. In situations like this where it's difficult to present facts to prove a not-guilty result, one option to explore is deferred disposition.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (Article 45.051) authorizes municipal and justice courts, upon entry of a plea or a finding of guilt of a misdemeanor punishable by fine only, to defer the disposition of the case for up to 180 days. The court may impose a variety of conditions to complete the deferred disposition, including paying a fine, drug and alcohol testing, participation in a drug or alcohol treatment or education program, and other "reasonable conditions." If the conditions are satisfied, the court "shall dismiss the complaint, and it shall be clearly noticed in the docket that the complaint is dismissed and that there is not a final conviction." If deferred disposition is completed successfully and the complaint is dismissed, there is not a final conviction and the complaint may not be used against the person for any purpose. Records relating to a complaint dismissed may be expunged if done in compliance with other Texas laws.

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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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