Drunk and Disruptive/Intoxicated and Disruptive in North Carolina
Being drunk and disruptive in public (sometimes referred to as “drunk and disruptive”) is illegal in North Carolina. The crime of intoxicated and disruptive is governed by N.C.G.S. 14-144. Let’s explore this topic further.
Public Intoxication Laws
Some states have public intoxication or drunk and disorderly criminal charges. For example, being drunk and disorderly is illegal in South Carolina (click here to learn more). In North Carolina, there is no public intoxication criminal charge. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that it is actually not illegal to be drunk and in public in North Carolina. It is, however, illegal to be drunk and disruptive in North Carolina. Intoxicated and disruptive or drunk and disruptive is a misdemeanor criminal charge in North Carolina. It is similar to drunk and disorderly or public intoxication charges in other states.
Being drunk in public not a crime in North Carolina (in and of itself)
It is important to note that merely being drunk in public is not illegal in North Carolina. In fact, one can be stumbling around, completely drunk, and that is still not illegal in and of itself. The behavior must rise to the level of “disruptive” which has very specific requirements, which we will discuss in the next section.
When is a person guilty of drunk and disruptive / intoxicated and disruptive in NC?
To be guilty of intoxicated and disruptive a person must be:
- in a public place AND
- is disruptive by:
- blocking or interfering with traffic on a highway or public vehicular area,
- blocking or interfering with access to or passage across a sidewalk,
- blocking or interfering with an entrance to any building,
- grabbing, shoving, or pushing others,
- fighting or challenging others to fight,
- cursing, shouting at, or rudely insulting others, or
Intoxicated and disruptive in North Carolina is a Class 3 Misdemeanor
Intoxicated and disruptive in North Carolina is punished as a Class 3 misdemeanor. This is the least serious class of misdemeanors in North Carolina. It carries a maximum of 20 days in jail. However, if a person has three or fewer prior convictions, he cannot face jail time. If fact, he cannot face any penalty other than a fine. Only individuals with five or more prior convictions can face jail time if convicted of intoxicated and disruptive in North Carolina.
Alcoholism is a complete defense to intoxicated and disruptive in North Carolina
The fact that the defendant is an alcoholic is a complete defense to the crime of drunk and disruptive in North Carolina. This defense must be considered by the judge even if the criminal defense lawyer or criminal defendant do not bring up the defense. A defendant found not guilty by reason of alcoholism may be subject to possible civil commitment.
Disorderly conduct to be distinguished from intoxicated and disruptive
If you have been charged with a crime in North Carolina or South Carolina, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your rights and your options. Gilles Law has criminal defense lawyers licensed in both North Carolina and South Carolina, both at the State and Federal levels.