Tennessee alcohol-related laws to be mindful of this summer


School’s out and summer has officially arrived! Whether your summer break includes a staycation, or a destination to the beach, it’s important to be mindful of alcohol-related laws. Such charges can include:


Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges are a serious matter and can result in severe consequences. In the state of Tennessee, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) equal to or higher than .08%. If you are a minor and are driving under the influence, your BAC cannot be equal to or higher than .02%.

While a night out drinking with friends may last a few hours, a DUI conviction can last a lifetime. If you plan to drink, be sure to do so responsibly. Plan ahead by choosing a designated driver in your group or download a car service app on your smartphone for a taxi, Uber or Lyft for quick usage.

Fake ID

Having a fake ID in college may seem like no big deal, but false identification can be a serious crime. Whether you are using your friend’s ID or created a fake ID, using false identification to purchase alcohol cannot only lead to a fake ID charge, but also a minor in possession of alcohol charge if you are under the age of 21. Remember that the use of a false identification to obtain goods, services, or privileges that the individual is not otherwise entitled to have is a crime.

Minor in Possession

Minor in Possession (MIP) includes those under the age of 21 in possession of alcohol or a controlled substance. A MIP can include holding an alcoholic beverage, even if it’s unopened. You can also get an MIP charge for internal possession, meaning that even if you don’t have alcohol or a controlled substance in possession physically, if consumed it is internal possession. If you are a minor and traveling with people who are of age and are consuming alcohol, make sure that they are holding their own beverage.

Open Container

Open container can be defined as an alcoholic beverage being open and capable of being consumed, or the seal of the beverage is broken.

In the state of Tennessee, “Open Container” law (T.C.A. 55-10-416) applies to the driver of a motor vehicle, meaning that under Tennessee law it is perfectly legal for any passenger in a car to consume alcohol that is 21 years or older.
However, it’s important to keep in mind of city codes as well. For example, Chattanooga City Code Sec. 5-87 states:

(b)   It shall be unlawful for any person to drink or consume any alcoholic beverage or beer or have an open container of alcoholic beverage or beer in or on any of the following places:

  • public street, alley, avenue, highway;
  • public sidewalk;
  • public park;
  • public school ground;
  • any other public place;
  • teen social clubs, as defined in Chapter 11 of this Code; and
  • any parking lot held open to use by the public.

When traveling to a different city and/or state, be sure to research that location’s open container laws before cracking a cold one in public, or in a motor vehicle.

Public Intoxication/Disorderly Conduct

A public intoxication charge can be given to a minor or someone of age for multiple reasons, such as:

  • The Offender may be endangered
  • There is endangerment to other persons or property
  • The offender unreasonably annoys people in the vicinity.

A disorderly conduct charge aligns closely with the third possible aspect of public intoxication. Disorderly conduct includes public annoyance, engaging in a violent or threatening behavior, or refusing to obey public safety laws.

No one says you can’t have a good time during your summer break, but just because its summer doesn’t mean that the laws no longer apply to you. Whether you are staying at home or going out of state, be responsible, and stay informed of the alcohol-related laws in your area.