How Serious is Public Intoxication? Consider the Consequences

April 12, 2018

By now, everyone knows it’s illegal to drive drunk (or ought to know). However, a lot of people still think they cannot be arrested for walking drunk. So-called “public intoxication” is often thought of as a minor offense, and in some places, local municipalities may charge it as an ordinance violation, similar to littering or illegal parking. However, in South Carolina it actually has a number of potentially very serious consequences.

What is Public Intoxication? 

Under Section 16-17-530 of the South Carolina Code, public intoxication is called public disorderly conduct. You can be charged with this offense if you are in a public place and do any of the following:

  • Become grossly intoxicated
  • Act loudly or in a “boisterous” manner
  • Use loud, aggressive and profane language in or around public places, schools, or churches
  • Discharge a gun while intoxicated (somewhere other than your private residence)

It’s a broad standard, so many types of behavior can qualify. Still, the police usually use this law to arrest people who are behaving aggressively or causing problems in public, such as stumbling home drunk from a bar, starting fights, or other drunken behavior. Here are some of the consequences of a conviction.

Consequence #1: Jail and a Criminal Record 

While just a misdemeanor, public intoxication is still a crime. It is not a traffic violation or parking ticket. It actually goes on your record and a conviction will become a matter of public information. Since it’s a crime, it is punishable by a fine and up to 30 days in jail. That’s right; you can go to jail for being drunk in public.

Consequence #2: Difficulty Getting or Keeping a Job

With a criminal record, there are some jobs you can’t get. Even a misdemeanor like disorderly conduct could potentially make it difficult to get jobs in law enforcement, fire service, the medical field, the military, and any type of government job requiring a security clearance (including government contractors).

Consequence #3: Other Alcohol-Related Crimes 

Consider that if, at some point in the future, you happen to get a DUI or lose your license for drunk driving, your past conviction for public intoxication may be brought up. It might make it hard to argue that you just had an isolated lapse in judgment. Rather, it could make you look like you have an alcohol problem. This could trigger worse sentences or make it harder for you to get your license back.

Consequence #4: Impact on Divorce or Child Custody

If you are going through a family court matter, such as divorce or child custody, getting a public intoxication charge can be a bad thing. A judge presiding over your child custody dispute may seriously take into consideration when deciding how much time you get with your children or whether you should have unsupervised visitation.

How a Charleston Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

There is no such thing as a minor criminal offense. All crimes go on your record, and they all have consequences. The best choice is to avoid getting “grossly intoxicated” in the first place. If you do get charged with public intoxication in South Carolina, you may be better off fighting your charge. Contact the Law Offices of David Aylor today to learn more about your rights.

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