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Public Intoxication Laws in SC

Public Intoxication Laws in SC

Under South Carolina law, being drunk or intoxicated in public is not against the law. However, the state prohibits “gross intoxication” in public. 

Although the law does not clearly define gross intoxication, the courts have consistently interpreted this term as being impaired to the point such intoxication is noticed by an outside observer, which is generally law enforcement officials. The offense must occur in a public place for it to be illegal, rather than on private property. 

Gross intoxication is generally charged as public disorderly conduct in South Carolina. Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 30 days and a fine of up to $100. 

The following are several legal defenses to gross intoxication and disorderly conduct: 

  • The alleged offense occurred in a private setting, rather than in a public place and/or in the presence of a police officer 

  • The alleged offender was not intoxicated, but appeared impaired due to a medical condition or prescribed medication 

  • The alleged offense was not disorderly, and the alleged offender only appeared to be intoxicated, rather than grossly intoxicated 

Additionally, it is illegal to have an open container in a vehicle, so long as the open container is not kept in your luggage compartment or trunk. Violation of South Carolina’s open container law carries the same criminal penalties as gross intoxication and public disorderly conduct. 

While gross intoxication and having an open container are misdemeanors, such crimes can still appear on your criminal record, which can have a negative impact on your professional reputation and personal life. You can experience difficulties finding work, apply for school, or living a normal life. 

If you have been arrested for gross intoxication in Columbia or Lexington, contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC today at (803) 359-3301 for a free case review. Serving clients throughout South Carolina since 2004! 


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