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South Carolina Code Annotated 16-17-530: Public Disorderly Conduct (Misdemeanor)

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Public Disorderly Conduct (Misdemeanor) Under South Carolina Code Annotated 16-17-530, the crime of public disorderly conduct is defined as behavior that is outside the bounds of behavior expected of citizens in public areas. Specifically, the South Carolina criminal law prohibits: (1) acting in a loud and boisterous manner or being grossly intoxicated on any highway or at any public area/gathering; (2) the use of foul and obscene language on any highway or at any public area/gathering, etc. in the vicinity of a school and/or church; OR (3) the discharge of a firearm on any highway or at any public area/gathering (or within 50 yards of any public highway or at any public area) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

South Carolina law enforcement frequently issue citations under this statute as it is a “catch all” crime where many types of unsavory behavior can be deemed criminal as long as they take place in public areas.

To prove the crime of Public Disorderly Conduct, the State must be able to establish the following elements Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:

  1. That the Defendant:
    1. a. Acted in a boisterous and disorderly manner or was in a grossly intoxicated state on any highway or at any public gathering in the State of South Carolina
    2. b. Used profane and/or obscene language on any highway or at any public gathering in the State of South Carolina within hearing distance of a church or school
    3. c. Discharged any firearm on any highway or at any public gathering (or within 50 feet of either) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or pretending to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs

The Defendant’s actions or behavior must be readily observable by members of the general public to be charged with public disorderly conduct.

“Grossly intoxicated” means that the general public observes that you appear intoxicated. This can be interpreted in many ways in South Carolina courts.

2. Examples

Defendant’s frustration mounts during the coronavirus stay at home order due to boredom and anxiety. Defendant goes to a local drug store Fort Mill to get essential items. Defendant decides to play a prank. Defendant pretends to cough and sneeze all over items in the store. Terrified patrons call the police. Defendant can be charged with public disorderly conduct in York County, SC.

Defendant just broke up with his girlfriend. Defendant downs a fifth of liquor and decides to go on a walk. In a black out, Defendant begins to walk on the edge of the highway I-77 north near Rock Hill and falls over several times. A passerby alerts the SC State Highway Patrol. Defendant can be charged with public disorderly conduct.

3. Related Statutes/Articles

For other similar articles or South Carolina criminal charges, please see:

  1. South Carolina Code Annotated 16-3-600: Assault and Battery in the First Degree (Felony)
  2. South Carolina Code Annotated 56-5-2930: Operating Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
  3. DUI Laws
  4. South Carolina Code Annotated 16-17-530: Conditional Discharge
4. Defenses

Public Disorderly Conduct (Misdemeanor) If a Defendant can prove that he or she was neither on a highway nor in a public place or public gathering, Defendant cannot be charged with public disorderly conduct.

Defendant can also show that their conduct did not rise to the level of boisterous or disorderly. The State of South Carolina bears the Burden of Proof for criminal charges in SC.

5. Penalties for Public Disorderly Conduct

The crime of public disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum period of incarceration of 30 days in a county or municipal jail OR a monetary fine in the maximum amount of $100.

If you are a first time offender in South Carolina, you may be eligible for a conditional discharge as long as you meet certain requirements. That is, if you fill the requirements of the courts (e.g., attend alcohol and drug class, community service), your case will ultimately be dismissed and expunged from your record.

6. Criminal Defense for Public Disorderly Conduct

If you have been charged with public disorderly conduct, you need to seek an experienced South Carolina attorney who can advise you of your rights and provide a consultation regarding your case. Although you may think this charge is not serious, it has very serious implications for future job prospects and application to undergraduate or graduate institutions.

At Powers Law, our experienced South Carolina lawyer can analyze your case and advocate vigorously on your behalf in court. A good South Carolina lawyer understands how to attack whether your conduct even falls under the conduct as outlined in the statute. Do not pay this ticket. Contact our office today.

Chris J. Beddow is the only licensed South Carolina criminal defense lawyer at Powers Law Firm, PA. Chris Beddow is solely responsible for South Carolina content on the Powers Law Firm PA website.

It’s imperative to begin your defense without delay. Please call 704-342-4357 immediately.

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