In Tennessee, it is possible to be charged and convicted of Public Intoxication—even if you are drinking on your own private property.

In State v. Jordan, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a Public Drunkenness conviction of a man who was intoxicated on his own front porch. The court agreed with the definition of a “public place” as “one that is within the sight and hearing of members of the public.”  The court cited an unpublished Tennessee Supreme Court decision that also endorsed the definition: “That case turned on whether the porch was visible from the road and how far the porch was from the nearest neighbor.”  In Jordan, the defendant was yelling obscenities, his porch was within six feet of the street, and neighbors came outside to see the disturbance.  Our blog visitors should note that the offense of Public Drunkenness was replaced with the current crime of Public Intoxication.

In the State of Tennessee, the standard for a public place is not entirely based on where a person is standing; it also includes the people or area affected by the disturbance.  The Public Intoxication statute includes language that makes it an offense if the “offender unreasonably annoys people in the vicinity.”  The criminalization of Public Intoxication is not meant to penalize the condition of being intoxicated in a public place so much as it is meant to penalize the conduct that may flow from being intoxicated.

If you find yourself charged with Public Intoxication, you should speak to the criminal defense lawyers at Oberman & Rice, who are committed to representing clients with unparalleled attention and communication—24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  Contact the criminal defense lawyers at Oberman & Rice at (865) 249-7200.


1 Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-310

2 State v. Jordan, 1987 WL 8415 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1987)

3 Public Drunkenness was the common law offense that is now codified as Public Intoxication

4 State v. Ralph B. Wise, unpublished (Tenn. May 28, 1985)

5 State v. Ralph B. Wise, unpublished (Tenn. May 28, 1985)

6 Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-310

7 State v. Munsey, 1997 WL 122239 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997)