Public Intoxication

Public Intoxication in South Carolina

Today we’re talking about Disorderly conduct which is often referred to as public intoxication and answers the question can you swear at police? Hi, my name is Dale Savage and I’m a criminal defense attorney here in Charleston, SC and today we’re talking about Disorderly conduct charges in South Carolina.

What is the Law?

Disorderly conduct cases typically fall into one of two situations:

  • Being really drunk in public or
  • Swearing in public or swearing at police which typically never ends well but more on that in a minute

Grossly intoxicated in public

Disorderly conduct based on public intoxication is one of the most prosecuted crimes here in South Carolina.  If you are going out to the local bars and restaurants in the downtown area, there’s going to be police patrolling those areas. But the law covers much more than just outside a bar and walking down the street.  If police determine you are grossly intoxicated in public, anywhere in public you can be arrested. 

So that means you can be charged inside:

  • A bar before you even have a chance to leave
  • Inside a car as a passenger (that’s right being in a vehicle is not a legal defense)
  • Anywhere in public when police determine you are grossly intoxicated, you can be arrested for this crime.

Now obviously this does not happen all the time whenever someone is drunk in a bar.  Usually there is some type of additional conduct that caught the eye of police whether that be fighting, loud yelling and cussing, breaking property, something that either led someone to call police or the police were not thrilled with your behavior while they were dealing with another situation.  This could be simply conducting a traffic stop and the passenger starts yelling and cussing at police or someone drives by that traffic stop and yells out and cusses at the police.

Swearing at police

The more interesting situation is the use of obscene or profane language in public. If you are in your own home, which is not a public place but you are using profane or obscene language that people in public can hear, like the sidewalk then you can be charged.

Profane language at police. First rule of common sense is that swearing is never likely going to end well for you.  But this is criminal defense and there is a difference between common sense and your legal rights.

Legal Defenses

The 1st Am. protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police.  The state may not punish a person for voicing an objection to a police officer where no fighting words were used.

Fighting words are words that are likely to invoke an immediate breach of peace. So legally, can you swear at police.  Under the law yes, sometimes.  The legal basis for that is our courts have said that a properly trained officer may reasonably be expected to exercise a higher degree of restraint than the average citizen.

So when isn’t swearing at police a legal defense.  If other people around you can hear those words then you can be charged. Again not saying you should do it but if you do and are charged, there are legal defenses available in the right situation.

Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Attorney

So, if have been arrested for Disorderly conduct and have questions about your case, please call me at (843) 530-7813.  I hope this video was helpful and thanks for watching.

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