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Carteret County Public Intoxication Attorney

Being caught drunk in public might not seem like a big deal, but the truth is that if it is determined that you have been disturbing the peace, you could be facing criminal charges. Per §14-447 of the 2009 North Carolina Code, however, no person can be criminally prosecuted solely on being found to be drunk in public. Should a law enforcement officer decide that their intoxication is dangerous to their health or disruptive, they could choose to place them in the care of a healthcare facility or shelter. Similarly, after sending them to this place, they could give them a citation.

Public Intoxication: Protecting the Rights of the Accused in North Carolina

Should an intoxicated person behave in an unruly manner that places either themselves or others in danger, they could also be slapped with charges of disorderly conduct – which carries heavy penalties and severe consequences. At Cummings & Kennedy, we recognize that criminal charges (regardless of the circumstances) can be frightening and we are therefore fully devoted to ensuring that our clients receive the caring and high-quality assistance that they truly deserve.

If you’re facing criminal charges for a public intoxication-related violation, we can help. You can learn more about North Carolina’s laws surrounding public intoxication in our frequently asked question section below, or you can reach out to us for a consultation. Also, feel free to continue reading to learn about why it may be important to hire a lawyer as you face prosecution for a charge.


Public Intoxication Frequently Asked Questions

Is public intoxication a charge unto itself here in North Carolina?

No. You cannot be charged for public intoxication alone, since it is legal to be intoxicated in public in our state. In fact, the state is explicit on their laws surrounding public intoxication, and infractions that can be committed by those who are otherwise legally publicly intoxicated.

Statute § 14-447(a) of the North Carolina code of law states the following:

“No person may be prosecuted solely for being intoxicated in a public place. A person who is intoxicated in a public place and is not disruptive may be assisted as provided in G.S. 122C-301.”

That said, you can commit a variety of public intoxication-related charges, including an intoxicated and disruptive in public charge or a disorderly conduct charge.

Can I still be arrested for public intoxication if I wasn’t disruptive or disorderly during the arrest?

An officer cannot “arrest” a person who is publicly intoxicated, although they can “assist” those who are publicly intoxicated, and they may use “reasonable force” to restrain an individual or to protect the individual and others. An offer may provide “assistance” according to these laws under § 122C-301 of the North Carolina code of law.

“(1) The officer may direct or transport the intoxicated individual home; (2) The officer may direct or transport the intoxicated individual to the residenceof another individual willing to accept him; (3) If the intoxicated individual is apparently in need of and apparently unable to provide for himself food, clothing, or shelter but is not apparently in need of immediate medical care, the officer may direct or transport him to an appropriate public or private shelter facility; (4) If the intoxicated individual is apparently in need of but apparently unable to provide for himself immediate medical care, the officer may direct or transport him to an area facility, hospital, or physician's office; or the officer may direct or transport the individual to any other appropriate health care facility; or (5) If the intoxicated individual is apparently a substance abuser and is apparently dangerous to himself or others, the officer may proceed as provided in Part 8 of this Article.”

What charges might I be facing if I’ve been arrested for an public intoxication-related charge?

As we just mentioned, public intoxication infractions only occur if you behave illegally while publicly intoxicated. The two most common charges that you can incur are intoxicated and disruptive in public charge and disorderly conduct charges, a brief description of each is listed below. We also work with individuals who have been charged with resisting arrest — another common charge that may go hand in hand with other public intoxication-related charges.

Intoxicated and Disruptive in Public: An individual may be considered intoxicated and disruptive in public, which is a criminal offense. § 14-447(b) of the North Carolina code of law outlines the law surrounding intoxicated and disruptive in public arrests:

“If, after arresting a person for being intoxicated and disruptive in a public place, the law-enforcement officer making the arrest determines that the person would benefit from the care of a shelter or health-care facility as provided by G.S. 122C-301, and that he would not likely be disruptive in such a facility, the officer may transport and release the person to the appropriate facility and issue him a citation for the offense of being intoxicated and disruptive in a public place. This authority to arrest and then issue a citation is granted as an exception to the requirements of G.S. 15A-501(2). (1977, 2nd Sess., c. 1134, s. 1; 1981, c. 519, s. 2; 1985, c. 589, s. 7.)”

It may be a good idea to hire an attorney if you’ve been accused of being intoxicated and disruptive in public, since you may be able to defend yourself on claims of “alcoholism” (which are outlined below, or you may be able to make a case that you were not behaving in a disruptive manner.

Disorderly Conduct: An officer may make an arrest of an individual who appears to be disturbing the public. The state outlines statute § 14-288.4 which describes an extensive list of disorderly conduct violations which may occur while an individual is intoxicated in public:

“(a) Disorderly conduct is a public disturbance intentionally caused by any person who does any of the following:

(1) Engages in fighting or other violent conduct or in conduct creating the threat of imminent fighting or other violence. (2) Makes or uses any utterance, gesture, display or abusive language which is intended and plainly likely to provoke violent retaliation and thereby cause a breach of the peace. (3) Takes possession of, exercises control over, or seizes any building or facility of any public or private educational institution without the specific authority of the chief administrative officer of the institution, or his authorized representative. (4) Refuses to vacate any building or facility of any public or private educational institution in obedience to any of the following:

a. An order of the chief administrative officer of the institution, or the officer's representative, who shall include for colleges and universities the vice chancellor for student affairs or the vice-chancellor's equivalent for the institution, the dean of students or the dean's equivalent for the institution, the director of the law enforcement or security department for the institution, and the chief of the law enforcement or security department for the institution.

b. An order given by any fireman or public health officer acting within the scope of the fireman's or officer's authority.

c. If an emergency is occurring or is imminent within the institution, an order given by any law-enforcement officer acting within the scope of the officer's authority.

(5) Shall, after being forbidden to do so by the chief administrative officer, or the officer's authorized representative, of any public or private educational institution:

a. Engage in any sitting, kneeling, lying down, or inclining so as to obstruct the ingress or egress of any person entitled to the use of any building or facility of the institution in its normal and intended use; or

b. Congregate, assemble, form groups or formations (whether organized or not), block, or in any manner otherwise interfere with the operation or functioning of any building or facility of the institution so as to interfere with the customary or normal use of the building or facility.

(6) Disrupts, disturbs or interferes with the teaching of students at any public or private educational institution or engages in conduct which disturbs the peace, order or discipline at any public or private educational institution or on the grounds adjacent thereto. (6a) Engages in conduct which disturbs the peace, order, or discipline on any public school bus or public school activity bus. (7) Except as provided in subdivision (8) of this subsection, disrupts, disturbs, or interferes with a religious service or assembly or engages in conduct which disturbs the peace or order at any religious service or assembly. (8) Engages in conduct with the intent to impede, disrupt, disturb, or interfere with the orderly administration of any funeral, memorial service, or family processional to the funeral or memorial service, including a military funeral, service, or family processional, or with the normal activities and functions occurring in the facilities or buildings where a funeral or memorial service, including a military funeral or memorial service, is taking place. Any of the following conduct that occurs within two hours preceding, during, or within two hours after a funeral or memorial service shall constitute disorderly conduct under this subdivision:

a. Displaying, within 500 feet of the ceremonial site, location being used for the funeral or memorial, or the family's processional route to the funeral or memorial service, any visual image that conveys fighting words or actual or imminent threats of harm directed to any person or property associated with the funeral, memorial service, or processional route.

b. Uttering, within 500 feet of the ceremonial site, location being used for the funeral or memorial service, or the family's processional route to the funeral or memorial service, loud, threatening, or abusive language or singing, chanting, whistling, or yelling with or without noise amplification in a manner that would tend to impede, disrupt, disturb, or interfere with a funeral, memorial service, or processional route.

c. Attempting to block or blocking pedestrian or vehicular access to the ceremonial site or location being used for a funeral or memorial.“

 

In short, an individual can be arrested for a disorderly conduct violation if they have engaged or threatened to engage in violence, if they are refusing to leave an educational facility, if they attempt to take possession of an educational facility without authorization, or if they use language and gestures that are intended to provoke retaliation.

What penalties can I expect if convicted of a violation?

Depending on the circumstances of the arrest, and the charges held against you, you will likely face a misdemeanor violation, although you can be charged with a felony violation for habitual offenses. Many of the cases we come across are for violations that are considered class three or class two misdemeanors — which have the least severe punishments of misdemeanor offenses. Many disorderly conduct infractions are considered class two misdemeanors, and they’ll result in penalties (if the individual is convicted) of a maximum of 60 days of jail time, up to a $1,000 fine, and other possible additions. For a class one misdemeanor, an individual can expect up to 20 days of jail time and up to $200 in fines (if the individual is convicted).

In cases where an individual has only been charged with one misdemeanor, the court may rule that the individual can provide community service and/or attend a substance abuse program to have the case dismissed.

Can public intoxication-related charges be expunged from my record?

Yes. In some cases, you may be able to have your record expunged of a public-intoxication related charge or conviction. Individuals who have only been charged and/or convicted of a single infraction may be able to expunge their record, effectively erasing the charge and/or conviction from their record. Often, individuals opt to expunge their record to improve their ability to obtain a job, or to avoid personal embarrassment, since these records are public in the state of North Carolina. If you’re further curious, you can read more about record expungement.


The Benefits of Hiring Attorney Representation for a Public Intoxication Charge

If you have been arrested and charged with a public-intoxication related charge, it may be in your best interest to hire an attorney to gain protection from unjust prosecution or an unfair conviction. Criminal defense attorneys can provide their clients with a number benefits which may improve their odds of a successful outcome for their case — here’s how an attorney may help:

Attorneys know the court process: An arrest can be shocking, and the imposing court dates and deadlines that you face may be overwhelming. An attorney will work with you to ensure that you understand the court process, and they’ll make sure that you attend court dates and file the proper paperwork on time.

Lawyers are educated and licensed: Lawyers are required to obtain a license before they can represent an individual legally. That means that criminal defense lawyers are trained and educated in providing defense for their clients, and that knowledge may be useful to obtain a positive outcome in a case.

Attorneys act with your best interests in mind: Your lawyer will work with your best interests in mind, striving to build a plan that will improve your odds of a successful outcome. You may be able to reduce your charges, the severity of a sentencing if you are convicted, or you may be able to have your charges dropped altogether.

Rapport with local law professionals: Here at Cummings and Kennedy, we have a relationship with local law professionals, from police officers to judges. That relationship may help us in the courtroom as we build a case against prosecution.

Knowledge of the local law: We understand local laws, and we work with local clients here in Carteret County, or those who have been charged with a crime here in the county.

If you’ve been charged with a public intoxication-related charge, it may be in your best interest to seek attorney consultation and representation for your case. Again, we strive to get the best outcome out of your case. If you’re curious about what we can do for you, give us a call to schedule a consultation.

 

As a locally run firm, we know the courts that we will be trying the cases in. This hometown advantage is not only convenient, it could be the advantage that we need as we work forward in the case. We know how daunting it can be to face criminal charges – you can trust that if you choose to work with a Carteret County criminal defense lawyer from our firm that your case and your future will be placed into truly capable and trustworthy hands. So don't wait! If you are looking to combat the charges, it is in your best interest to call us as soon as possible – the sooner that our attorney team gets involved, the faster that we will be able to help you build a defense.

Contact a Carteret County public intoxication lawyer from our firm to schedule your case analysis.