Question: What is the difference between PI and DWI?
Benson Varghese: In Texas, a PI means a person is charged with a public intoxication. A person can be charged with public intoxication when an officer believes that they are intoxicated to the point that they’re a danger to themselves or others. That is a pretty high threshold. You essentially have to do something that makes it clear that you would inflict bodily harm upon yourself or another person. It could be something as simple as: an officer observes you stumbling as you’re leaving a bar, but as you’re walking to your car, you have your keys in your hand and he believes that you’re about to get into that vehicle and drive away.
Which really leads to the second offense of DWI—that is driving while intoxicated—and the definition for intoxication when it comes to driving while intoxicated isn’t much lower. That definition is that you’re not normal (mentally or physically) and, as you can imagine, any slight deviation from normal is going to be enough for an officer to say: “I believe this person was intoxicated while they were driving.” It can be as little as slurred speech or poor decision-making; it’s a very low threshold so they’re quite different in the level of proof that’s required. A PI is a ticket, so it’s punishable by a $500 fine—no jail time. A DWI, at a very basic level, is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.