Understanding Disorderly Conduct Charges in South Carolina

Disorderly conduct can be seen as murky territory. The law doesn’t specify exact descriptions of illegal behavior and it’s a bit of a catch-all charge. If you’ve been charged with public disorderly conduct, it may not seem fair. Maybe you were just having fun with your friends and got a little too rowdy. This doesn’t change the fact though that being charged with disorderly conduct can have significant and long-lasting ramifications on your life. Here’s what you need to know.

What Behaviors Define a Disorderly Conduct Charge?

According to South Carolina state law, there are three primary reasons a person can be charged with public disorderly conduct:

  1. Public intoxication or behaving in a boisterous or disorderly manner as if you were drunk.
  2. Using profane or obscene language at any public place, on a highway, or within hearing distance of a church or school.
  3. When you fire a gun or firearm of any sort within 50 yards of any public road while drunk, or pretending to be drunk, without a reasonable cause. The exception to this is when it’s on your own property.

Defined, a “public place” includes any indoor or outdoor space that the general public can access through right or invitation, whether it’s publicly or privately owned. Places employed for personal uses and private gatherings don’t count, but just about every place else does.

“Disorderly” doesn’t have an exact legal definition, but the law provides drunk, boisterous, profane, and obscene as examples. Any behavior that disrupts the people around you and disturbs the peace can be seen as disorderly conduct in the eyes of the law.

Is Disorderly Conduct a Criminal Offense?

Yes. Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor crime and carries possible fines and jail time. Charges and convictions will show up on your criminal record and any future background checks. Judges take disorderly conduct seriously even though it’s a petty offense, and cases that involve a deadly weapon are considered more serious than those that involve, say, foul language.

What Penalties Does Disorderly Conduct Carry?

If you’re convicted of disorderly conduct, your sentence or fine will be defined by the judge who hears your case. Fines are about $250 and you could land yourself in jail for up to 30 days. However, if it’s the first offense, the judge may sentence you to community service or a pre-trial intervention program instead of jail time.  We normally do not recommend Pre Trial Intervention for a disorderly conduct. We usually obtain a better result such as alcohol education classes or some other outcome. Sentencing will be based on the facts of your case, any criminal history you may have, and your overall character. A good criminal defense lawyer can help you minimize penalties and keep you from being branded as a troublemaker.

How Can a Conviction Affect Your Life?

Because a disorderly charge can show up on background checks, it can make it difficult to find employment or scholarships, and may even result in the loss of your current job, depending on who you work for. It may also affect your immigration case if you’re applying for citizenship. Any arrests, felony or misdemeanor charges, or convictions can hurt your credibility with the U.S. government, but a good attorney may be able to help you explain away the situation so you’ll have a better chance of having your citizenship approved. Never try to hide your arrest.

If you’ve been charged with public disorderly conduct, our South Carolina criminal defense lawyers can help you protect your reputation and reduce penalties. Contact the Greg McCollum Complete Legal Defense Team today.