As a criminal defense attorney in Columbia and Chesterfield, South Carolina, I know that there is a fine line between having fun and having a little too much fun. You and your friends got a little loud and used inappropriate language and, while your intent was not to be disorderly, you find yourself being charged with disorderly conduct. This article will explain what is considered disorderly conduct in South Carolina, the possibility of expungement, and the need for a criminal defense attorney.

What is Considered Disorderly Conduct in South Carolina?

Under South Carolina law, it is a misdemeanor to appear “grossly intoxicated” in a public place or otherwise behave in a disorderly or “boisterous” way. While South Carolina has failed to define the term “grossly intoxicated,” courts have generally interpreted it to mean intoxication that is apparent to an outside observer.

For example, a drunken passenger in a car who yells threats and obscenities out of the car window to a person on the street could be arrested and charged with public disorderly conduct.

Disorderly conduct also includes:

  • Using obscene or profane language in any public place or gathering, or within hearing distance of a schoolhouse or church
  • Firing a gun within fifty yards of a public road while under the influence of alcohol, except upon one’s own premises.

Isn’t Vulgar Speech Protected By The First Amendment?

The First Amendment does not protect “fighting words.” Fighting words are those words that are likely to provoke a violent response. Vulgarity that is likely to cause upset is not constitutionally protected as free speech and can be the basis for a charge of disorderly conduct.

Can a Disorderly Conduct Charge Be Expunged From My Record in South Carolina?

Although a misdemeanor, a disorderly conduct conviction will appear on your criminal record, and will likely show up on background checks. However, if you meet certain conditions, then a disorderly conduct arrest can be expunged from your record. An expungement is technically a legal process for the records of the charge to be destroyed. This is usually only an option for minor offenses and first-time offenses with no further arrests during the following 3 years, although a judge ultimately approves or denies a request for expungement.

You could be eligible for expungement if:

  • The charges against you are dismissed
  • You are found not guilty at trial
  • You complete a pre-trial intervention (PTI) program

Is it Necessary to Hire an Attorney For a Disorderly Conduct Charge in South Carolina?

If this is your first criminal offense, you could end up with a criminal record which could have a negative impact on your reputation or your relationships. You could lose your job or struggle to find a new job. Many people who have been charged with conduct charge see it as a simple misdemeanor.  The possibility of a fine doesn’t seem like much but keep in mind that a fine is only one option, you could get jail time.  If you are facing a charge of disorderly conduct, contact the Li Law Firm. We have the experience needed for a successful outcome.