Public Disorderly Conduct in South Carolina
In South Carolina, Public Disorderly Conduct, or PDC, is an unclassified misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine or up to 30 days in jail. PDC and similar offenses are commonly charged throughout South Carolina, due in part, to the broad language of the statutes and ordinances.
SECTION 16-17-530. Public disorderly conduct 1 Any person who shall (a) be found on any highway or at any public place or public gathering in a grossly intoxicated condition or otherwise conducting himself in a disorderly or boisterous manner, (b) use obscene or profane language on any highway or at any public place or gathering or in hearing distance of any schoolhouse or church or (c) while under the influence or feigning to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor, without just cause or excuse, discharge any gun, pistol or other firearm while upon or within fifty yards of any public road or highway, except upon his own premises, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars or be imprisoned for not more than thirty days.
The statute above makes it illegal to be grossly intoxicated, disorderly, or boisterous while in public. Additionally, it is illegal to use obscene or profane language in a public place, public gathering, or within hearing distance of any schoolhouse or church. Finally, the statute prohibits the discharge of any gun, pistol or other firearm, while under the influence of intoxicating liquors, and while upon or within 50 yards of any public road or highway, unless person is upon his own premises.
The language of the PDC statute makes this offense potentially applicable to a wide range of conduct. However, PDC only applies to a person’s conduct while in public, i.e., on any highway, public place, or public gathering, and does not apply to conduct while upon a person’s own premises. The issues become defining and identifying gross intoxication, disorderly or boisterous manner, or determining if language rises to the level of obscene or profane. Law Enforcement officers must use their training and experience to decide whether to charge someone with PDC, or another similar offense. Additionally, officers must consider a person’s constitutionally protected rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to assemble peaceably, when making a charging decision.
Municipal and county ordinances often overlap with South Carolina PDC statute. For example, the City of Beaufort Ordinance Sec. 9-1004 prohibits a person from causing a breach of the peace or engaging in any disorderly conduct and is punishable by a fine up to five hundred dollars OR imprisoned for up to 30 days.
Sec. 9-1004. – Disturbance of the peace; disorderly conduct 2
It shall be unlawful for any person, within the city, to create, bring about, or assist in creating or bringing about, any breach of the peace; or to engage in any conduct or perform any act creating a breach of the peace; or to engage in any disorderly conduct. Any person who shall do or engage in any of the following, on public or private property in the City of Beaufort, shall be guilty of disorderly conduct:
(1) Any person who shall act in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another, whereby any person is placed in fear of safety of his life, limb, or health;
(2) Any person who shall act in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another, whereby property of any person is placed in danger of being destroyed or damaged;
(3) Any person who shall endanger lawful pursuits of another by acts of violence, angry threats and abusive conduct;
(4) Any person who shall cause, provoke or engage in any fight, brawl or riotous conduct so as to endanger the life, limb, health or property of another;
(5) Any person who shall assemble or congregate with another or others for the purpose of causing, provoking or engaging in any fight or brawl;
(6) Any person who shall be found jostling or roughly crowding or pushing any person;
(7) Any person who shall assemble or congregate bodies or in crowds for unlawful purposes;
(8) Any person who shall assemble or congregate with another or others, for the purpose of or with the intent to engage in gaming;
(9) Any person who shall frequent any public place with intent to obtain money from another by an illegal and fraudulent scheme, trick, artifice or device;
(10) Any person who assembles with another or others for the purpose of engaging in any fraudulent scheme, device or trick to obtain any valuable thing in any place or from any person, or who shall aid or abet therein;
(11) Any person who utters in the presence of another, any lewd or obscene words or epithets;
(12) Any person who frequents any place where gaming or the illegal sale or possession of alcoholic beverages or narcotics or dangerous drugs is practiced, allowed or tolerated;
(13) Any person who shall act in a dangerous manner toward others;
(14) Any person who shall use "fighting words" directed towards any person who becomes outraged and thus creates turmoil;
(15) Any person who shall assemble or congregate with another or other person for the purpose of doing bodily harm to another;
(16) Any person who shall, by acts of violence, interfere with another's pursuit of a lawful occupation;
(17) Any person who shall congregate with another or others in or on any public ways so as to halt the flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic and refuses to clear any public way when ordered to;
(18) Any person who shall create or cause to be created any disturbance as annoyance to the comfort and repose of any person.
(19) Any person who within public view urinates or defecates on public or private property.
(20) It is unlawful for any person to willfully or unnecessarily interfere with or disturb in any way or in any place the students, faculty, or any employee of any school or college, to loiter about school or college premises, or to act in an obnoxious manner. Permission must be obtained from the principal or president in charge to enter or loiter about school or college premises.
The offense of PDC and the Beaufort ordinance were created to address the same issues of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and breach of the peace; however, the specific language of theses offenses causes them to be potentially applicable to different situations. Therefore, it is vital to know the specific allegations against you and the exact wording of the offense being charged so that you can make the best decision for your case.
There is no substitute for having an experienced attorney on your side to explain your rights and the law in understandable terms. If you have been charged with Public Disorderly Conduct or any similar offense, contact us at 843-470-4704 for help with your case.
2 https://library.municode.com/sc/beaufort/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=CO_PT9OF_CH1GEPR_S9- 1004DIPEDICO