The elements of the offense of maintaining a disorderly house depend on statutory provisions that vary from state to state. A place may be named a disorderly house if alcohol is sold on the premises and if the law in that jurisdiction prohibits such sale. Essential to all offenses involving disorderly houses is the character of the house.
House or Other Building or Place The commission of the offense is dependent upon the presence of a house or place of public resort, the physical characteristics of which are immaterial. A disorderly house may be any place, including a room in a building or a steamship, an apartment, a garden, or a space under the grandstand at the racetrack.
The character of the place as a public resort is important. The general rule is that a disorderly house must be a place to which the general public or a segment of the public retreats for immoral purposes without prior invitation. A disorderly house may be used for other purposes that are not prohibited by law in addition to immoral purposes, but this in no way affects its classification as a disorderly house.
Annoyance or Injury to the Public The annoyance to the general public, as opposed to anyone in particular, is an essential element of the definition of a disorderly house. This annoyance or injury is based on the fact that activities being conducted are considered detrimental to public morals, welfare, and safety. They need not disturb the peace and quiet of a neighborhood to be construed as disorderly. A house where drugs are sold quietly or where a bordello is discreetly operated would be considered an endangerment to the public peace.