Public Disorderly Conduct in Lexington
Public Disorderly Conduct is codified in § 16-17-530 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. It is a "catch all" offense in South Carolina meaning that what constitutes public disorderly conduct is often up to the arresting officer as long as it occurred in public. Police use this law to remove people they deem to be "out of control" or "hostile" to other members of the public. This law has a broad definition and, unfortunately, its reach covers a wide variety of situations which often leads to improper arrests by police.
A popular example of an improper arrest, and one we have dealt with many times before, includes situations where the police respond to a private location and ask someone to step out into public to discuss the situation with the police. During a line of questioning that person may become openly uncooperative with police and stand firm in their refusal. The police then arrest the person for public disorderly conduct.
Police are often required, per department policy, to remove one party from a situation that is perceived as hostile. We have seen quite a few cases in which the instigating party is allowed to leave or remain on scene while the other party is removed and taken to jail for merely responding to a threatening situation they were involuntarily placed in.
Strategies to Combat the Charge
A charge of public disorderly conduct is dependent on the circumstances and the perception of the officer of those circumstances. There are many strategies available to combat this charge. First and foremost an experienced lawyer must be aware of all the circumstances surrounding the arrest to determine if it was indeed proper. Often times, if a charge of Public Disorderly Conduct cannot be dismissed there is usually a way to resolve it without having the charge remain on your record.
If you are interested in speaking with a Lexington criminal defense attorney, please contact our office. Our staff will set a free appointment that will allow you to discuss your particular circumstances with an experienced attorney. We can then work to achieve your goals in resolving your case. Contact us today to build a strategy for effective defense.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is public disorderly conduct a misdemeanor or felony?
All charges brought in a Magistrate or Municipal Court are misdemeanors.
Will this charge go on your criminal record?
All criminal offenses in South Carolina are eligible to be publically reported. Additionally if you were taken to jail there is an automatically created public "rap" sheet of your arrest.
My charge is listed as public drunkenness, creating a disturbance, or some other term other than Public Disorderly Conduct OR the offense code on my ticket is different than 16-17-530.
Many towns or counties have local ordinances for disorderly conduct. These local ordinances may carry substantially higher penalties than the state statute. Please contact us for a free consultation to try to determine exactly what you are charged with and what the penalties might be.
Will a public disorderly conduct charge prevent employment?
While this is a relatively minor level offense compared to other offenses (murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery), a conviction still creates a reportable criminal record. Some employers will not consider a candidate with a record, especially if another similarly qualified applicant has a clean record. There have been many instances where people have been turned down for employment based on misdemeanor convictions such as disorderly conduct.
Can you be charged if the police heard you curse?
Everyone has a first amendment right to use profanity in most all settings. This includes in front of, or directed to police officers. In fact police officers are expected to be able to tolerate more profanity than a regular citizen due to their police training and experience. If you were charged simply because the police heard you use profanity the law you are entitled to request to have your case completely dismissed.
Should you consider pre-trial intervention (PTI)?
Pre-trial intervention is a diversion program available in every South Carolina county. Upon completion a criminal charge, such as disorderly conduct, will be dismissed and your record will be expunged. You are only entitled to complete PTI once in your lifetime. As a result you should carefully consider whether or not PTI is the best option, especially if there are significant legal or factual defenses available to your case.
Should a college student complete PTI?
College students who currently have a clean record may want to consider PTI more so than other individuals. This is especially true if they are close to graduation and looking to obtain employment. PTI will provide a guarantee that they will have a clean record for any employment background check (although government\military employment checks will still show the PTI completion). Our lawyers can help you decide if PTI is right for your student, and if so we can help them request that option in court.