Public Intoxication/Disorderly Conduct

Intoxicated and Disruptive (aka Public Intoxication)

Most people are shocked to hear that being drunk or intoxicated in public is not a crime. In 1977, the North Carolina Legislature changed the laws to only prohibit a person being both intoxicated and disruptive in a public place. There are five acts listed in the law which constitute “disruptive” behavior, but in short, you cannot be intoxicated and block traffic, block a sidewalk, instigate a fight, curse at or insult others, or beg. An additional component of the charge of Intoxicated and Disruptive is that the person charged must be substantially impaired by alcohol. What constitutes substantially impaired is up to a judge or jury, but an interesting poem is contained in the jury instructions to this charge, and goes as follows:

Not drunk is he who from the floor
Can rise alone and still drink more;
But drunk is he who prostrate lies,
Without the power to drink or rise.

While you may find this poem amusing, there is nothing funny about being charged with this crime. Intoxicated and Disruptive is classified as a Class 3 misdemeanor, and while this is the lowest class of criminal offenses, it is still a criminal offense which could result in court costs, fines, probation, an active jail sentence, as well as a permanent blemish on a background check. While the easiest thing to do is plead guilty and pay a simple fine, having this charge on your permanent criminal record may have a negative effect on your employment opportunities and other aspects of your life. It is important to look at not just what is easiest in the short term, but what is best for you in the long term, and the facts are, when a potential employer asks about prior convictions, no one wants to have to explain about having one bad night.

An interesting note about the crime of Intoxicated and Disruptive, even if a person is severely under the influence of alcohol and performs one of the prohibited acts that constitute a disruption, North Carolina law recognizes the defense that a defendant charged with this crime is an alcoholic. While you may be thinking that this is a perfect solution to being convicted, before you claim to be an alcoholic as a defense to an Intoxicated and Disruptive charge, be aware that if a judge acquits you of the crime because he or she finds you to be an alcoholic, that judge can also involuntarily commit you for up to 15 days for a psychologist to determine whether or not you are a danger to yourself or others.

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our attorneys can help you with your charge of Intoxicated and Disruptive. In some instances cases can be resolved without clients even appearing in court, either by outright dismissal or reach an agreement for deferred prosecution. In other instances, such a quick and easy resolution is not possible, especially when a defendant has been charged with multiple offenses. In these situations, our attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC will fight to make sure you get the best possible result.

Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today and let us advocate for you.

Disorderly Conduct or Disturbing the Peace

Disorderly Conduct is also commonly referred to as “Disturbing the Peace.” The history of this charge dates back to the 1960’s and the era of sit-ins, protests, and general civil disobedience. The description of the general types of behavior prohibited by this charge make that history very clear, as the Disorderly Conduct statute prohibits, among other activities, the following behaviors:

  • Breaching the peace by making any utterance, gesture, display or engaging in abusive language intended to provoke a violent retaliation;
  • Interfering with educational institutions by seizing buildings, blocking entrances and exits, or congregating in groups to disrupt the educational institution’s ability to function; or
  • Disrupting, or attempting to disrupt, religious or funeral services.

While the mass protests and sit-ins of the 1960’s are gone, the charge of Disorderly Conduct is still alive and well. The behavior most cited as the basis for this charge is fighting or other violent conduct, or conduct that creates the threat of imminent fighting or other violence. Basically, conduct that is created to incite a fight or riot and thereby disturb the peace.

Other prohibited conduct is what is called failing to adhere to orders. In these types of cases, an individual does not comply with a fireman, policeman, or public health officer. Other possible behaviors that may result in a charge include:

  • Being drunk in public
  • Inciting a riot
  • Loitering
  • Obstructing or blocking traffic
  • Loud and unreasonable noise
  • Interference with activities and the normal course of business
  • Participating in forms of lascivious behaviors.

Under North Carolina law, disorderly conduct is considered a public disturbance that is intentionally or purposefully caused. In North Carolina, this is a serious crime and is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor. As discussed above, there are many types of behaviors that could lead to a disorderly conduct charge, an individual may be arrested without proper cause. There is a natural tension between free speech and speech that is intended to breach the peace, and in some instances people face disorderly conduct charges simply for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Disorderly conduct is over a catch all charge that occasionally police use to arrest anyone for conduct they believe is offensive. As a result, it is extremely important to consult with a qualified defense attorney at Arnold & Smith, PLLC.

In order to avoid a conviction for disorderly conduct and a permanent blemish on your criminal record, talk to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC.