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What Is Public Intoxication in Tennessee?

Tennessee Public Intoxication

When you are out with friends, you may have a few drinks. What may begin as a good time can quickly turn south and you may find yourself in handcuffs before the night is over. You do not want the party to end with you in police custody.

Anyone who has ever been pulled over for possible drunk driving in Tennessee knows how seriously police and prosecutors take their public responsibilities.

What Constitutes Public Intoxication?

First, it is crucial to understand exactly what it means to be publicly intoxicated. In Tennessee, public intoxication means a person appears in a public place under the influence of alcohol or drugs and is (1) unreasonably disruptive or (2) presenting a danger to themselves or others. In this case, the police may take that individual into custody. 

What is a Public Place?

You may find the term "public place" to be vague. Tennessee law defines public places to be anywhere the general population has the ability to access. However, you do not need to be in a large crowd of people to face public intoxication charges. Even if you are alone in a public alleyway, a cop may put you in custody if you are staggering and pose a danger to yourself.

Penalties for Public Intoxication in Tennessee

One unique aspect of Tennessee public intoxication laws is the fact that they emphasize treatment over incarceration. If the police take you into protective custody for public intoxication but you are not breaking any other laws, they are supposed to take you to a judicial official who may offer you the option to get treatment for alcohol or drug addiction. However, public intoxication is still a misdemeanor crime that may result in fines and incarceration if there is no treatment facility available. 

If you are facing charges for public intoxication, you may be able to defend against them by claiming you were not a danger, not annoying others or the conduct did not take place in public.