No doubt, everybody is entitled to have a good time. However, when the party becomes too wild or out of control — interfering with other people’s rights — it can lead to law enforcement involvement.
Getting a little tipsy in public in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is not against the law. But if you get drunk enough that your behavior interferes with others’ rights, you could be charged with disorderly conduct or public intoxication.
But the question is, what tells these two misdemeanor offenses apart, and what are the specific differences between each? Also, what are the potential defenses for either charge?
If you have been charged with a crime of this nature, our experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your case.
Disorderly Conduct vs. Public Intoxication
The first thing to understand about disorderly conduct and public intoxication is that they are both misdemeanors. That means they carry less severe penalties than felonies do. However, if found guilty, the punishment may include a fine, jail time, or both.
Understanding public disorderly conduct in Myrtle Beach, SC
South Carolina law defines public disorderly conduct as behaving in an unruly/boisterous manner or being found in a public place or gathering in a grossly intoxicated condition. But what scale is “gross intoxication” weighed upon? While the law does not define the term explicitly, courts have interpreted it to mean intoxication that is apparent to a third party — usually the police.
Please note that different types of unruly acts may match the definition of disorderly conduct. These may include causing a scene within the proximity of a church or school, using profane language in a public place or gathering, and firing a gun within 50 yards of a public road while intoxicated (however, you may be exempted if you fired the gun within your premises).
Also, note that just like “grossly intoxicated,” the definition of “public place” is not clear in South Carolina law, thus open to court interpretation. Generally, a public place is any location where anyone can enter and exit freely, such as a church, street, alley, park, sidewalk, or school.
However, for the sake of the South Carolina public disorderly conduct law, a person may be charged with disorderly conduct if their unruly behavior is observable by members of the public, even if they were in a traditionally private setting like a rented hotel room.
Understanding public intoxication in Myrtle Beach, SC
The law is clear on public intoxication in Myrtle Beach. According to Myrtle Beach municipal code section 14-66, “It shall be unlawful for any person to be in an intoxicated or impaired condition in any public place in the city.”
Section 14-66 further defines public intoxication as “material diminishment of one’s cognitive, emotional, mental or physical faculties” from alcohol or another substance to the point it threatens them or another’s safety. As far as the community is concerned, public intoxication also involves bringing “disorder to the public, or to menace the public tranquility, or to deter by the person’s presence the public’s reasonable enjoyment of a public place.”
Essentially, to be charged with public intoxication in Myrtle Beach, SC, your behavior must fit these three basic elements:
- You were present in a public place
- You were under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances
- You caused disturbance or harm to another person
Differences Between Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct in Myrtle Beach, SC
From the kind of penalty each offense attracts to the type of evidence required to prove each charge, there are several differences between public intoxication and disorderly conduct in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Public intoxication vs. disorderly conduct penalties in Myrtle Beach
If convicted of public intoxication in Myrtle Beach, SC, you face up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. If you’re also convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), you may receive additional penalties, including license suspension and possible revocation.
On the other hand, if you’re convicted of disorderly conduct in Myrtle Beach, SC, you will only face fines of not more than $100 and a jail time of not more than 30 days.
Evidence requirements for public intoxication vs. disorderly conduct
To convict someone of public intoxication in Myrtle Beach, SC, prosecutors need to show that you were visibly drunk in a public place.
In contrast, to convict someone of disorderly conduct, prosecutors don’t need to show that you actually did anything wrong. Instead, they simply need to show that you created a risk of danger to yourself or others.
Disorderly conduct vs. public intoxication by type of offense
Public intoxication is a municipal (city) offense. That means it is defined by the city’s municipal code and can only be charged in the city court.
In contrast, disorderly conduct is a state-law offense defined in SC Code Section 16-17-530. That means it can be prosecuted in either county or circuit court.
Limits for disorderly conduct or public intoxication
Being a state offense, you can be charged with disorderly conduct for being grossly intoxicated anywhere in South Carolina.
However, you can only be charged with public intoxication within the city limits of Myrtle Beach if intoxicated or impaired.
Possible Defenses to Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct
Getting charged with public intoxication or drunken disorderly conduct is not the end of the road. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you mount an effective defense against those charges. Here are the most common defenses to these charges:
Not in public
If your intoxicated or disorderly misconduct occurred in a completely private setting and not in the presence of law enforcement, you should be able to beat the charge trouble-free. A good lawyer will use this as a key argument to get your case dismissed or reduced.
Establishing gross intoxication without detailed sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests can be challenging. If a police officer doesn’t have any proof that you were actually intoxicated, you might be able to argue that you weren’t even intoxicated at all.
Again, appearance can be deceiving, and it is not uncommon for an office or members of the public to misjudge your conduct as disorderly. So if you can prove that you didn’t create a risk of harm to yourself or others, you could win your case.
David Aylor Law Offices Can Help!
Since 2007, David Aylor and his team have been working hard to protect clients’ rights and fight for their freedom. Our extensive experience gives us an advantage in the courtroom, enabling us to provide our clients with the best possible legal representation.
Contact us now to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows what it takes to defend clients facing charges.
Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct FAQs
Can I be arrested for public intoxication if I’m just drinking at home?
No. It is not illegal to drink alcohol within the confines of your premises. As long as you are not causing disturbance to others (members of the public), you are clear.
Do I need a lawyer to represent me if I am accused of public intoxication or disorderly conduct?
Yes. It is best to hire a lawyer to represent you in court. Your lawyer will be able to explain the process to you and advise you about the best way to proceed.