Thousands of people go to music festivals like this one. Truth be told, I might be one of them. Because of the crowd, there’s always a very large police presence at these festivals. Usually, officers are basically a visual deterrent to crime and a presence to make people feel safer. When they make arrests, they are usually for misdemeanors and usually for one of the three offenses listed below.
Penal Code 49.02 is one of the broadest laws on the books. It applies if someone is intoxicated “to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.” Note the use of may endanger as opposed to does endanger. If a drunk woman walks across the room, she may endanger her own safety or the safety of another person. If a drunk man tries to open a door, he may endanger his own safety or that of another person. You get the idea.
Fortunately, PI is a Class C misdemeanor (no jail time, maximum $500 fine). However, that’s an offense that you do not need to deal with, especially if you are already on probation for something else. In fact, many officers at music festivals make decisions on this basis. If the person has a clean record, officers are unlikely to make an arrest.
To avoid these troubles altogether, make sure you stay close to someone who is sober. Then, an attorney can maintain that this person would have kept you from hurting yourself or someone else. That’s a rather speculative argument, but PI is a rather speculative offense.
Minor In Possession of alcohol (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code 106.05) is also a Class C misdemeanor. The elements are straightforward. The defendant is either under 21 or over 21. There are some affirmative defenses. One of them, “the minor is in the visible presence of his adult parent, guardian, or spouse,” comes up occasionally during music festivals.
It’s not illegal for minors to drink alcohol under this provision. It’s only illegal for minors to possess alcohol. So, if minors have alcohol on their breath, that evidence will not hold up in court. The prosecutor must prove possession beyond a reasonable doubt, and evidence of consumption is insufficient.
In terms of penalties, the POM (possession of marijuana) law is a lot different from PI or MIP. Under Health & Safety Code 481.121, possession of under two ounces is a Class B misdemeanor (six months in jail and $2,000 fine). If there are even one or two unburned marijuana fibers in a used joint, that’s a Class B misdemeanor.
However, it’s not illegal to smoke marijuana. It’s only illegal to possess marijuana. Unless the officer also seizes pot, the arrest is probably invalid. There is certainly not enough evidence to prove possession beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lots of people pass joints around in groups. A Parker County prosecutor would argue that the second or two that the defendant held the joint qualifies as possession. If the prosecutor produces a credible witness who saw the defendant hold the joint, that’s probably correct. However, that’s also a very big “if.” The underlying case law in this area is a bit uncertain as well.
Have fun at LJT and stay out of trouble. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We have multiple offices locations where you can privately discuss your case.