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Drunk and disorderly: How to keep it off your record

Drinking while driving isn’t the only alcohol-related behavior that can get you into trouble with the law. Other, lesser-known offenses can also land you in court: public intoxication and public disorderly conduct, and breach of peace.

South Carolina law makes it a crime to appear in public while in a “grossly intoxicated condition.” Late-night bar fights and rowdy public gatherings can lead to a public intoxication charge. It may also be tacked onto other charges such as assault and battery. Regardless of how it happened, the charge frequently impacts those with no prior criminal record.

What it could mean for your criminal record

While the charge of public disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor, it can still lead to harsh consequences such as fines, jail time and court-ordered community service.

Additionally, unless you’re a minor, criminal proceedings are public records. This means the charges, filings, and disposition (outcome) will show up on background checks. Having a criminal record can jeopardize your:

  • Job prospects
  • Housing opportunities
  • Higher education
  • Professional license
  • And more

As you can see, a public disorderly charge is not something to take lightly.

What you can do about it

If this is your first offense, you might qualify for conditional discharge, a type of diversionary program that can help you avoid a formal conviction and keep the charges off your criminal record. The program involves entering a conditional guilty plea and successfully completing court-ordered requirements, which might include:

  • Submitting to regular drug testing
  • Participating in an alcohol treatment program
  • Completing community service
  • Honoring a curfew
  • Avoiding further arrests
  • Paying the requisite court fees

If you comply with the court’s requirements, the case will be dismissed, and it won’t go on your public record.

A conditional discharge is only one of many alternatives that you might discuss with experienced legal counsel.  The first step in advocating for the best-possible outcome is to speak with a lawyer. As always, don’t attempt to handle criminal charges – even misdemeanors – on your own.