SC Law Blog

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Disorderly Conduct

Reese Witherspoon, the Hollywood celebrity that is best known for her roles in Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blonde was recently arrested on disorderly conduct charges. Police arrested her after she would not cooperate with their requests for her to remain in the vehicle while they conducted a field sobriety test on her husband. As you can see from this local WMBF news article, celebrities are subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens.

It’s easy to imagine how a spouse or friend could get upset when the police are questioning a loved one. But by sometimes any involvment with the police while they are investigating a crime can get you arrested.....police officers often don't care whether you have a right to express your opinion or not and the police will often arrest you if you annoy them during their shift.  The catch-all charge they use to accomplish this is disorderly conduct.

South Carolina defines disorderly conduct as being at a public highway place, or gathering in a gross intoxicated condition or conducting oneself in a disorderly or boisterous manner in public or use of obscene or profane language at any public highway, place, or gathering or in hearing distance of any schoolhouse or church or discharging a firearm while upon or within 50 yards of any public road or highway while under the influence or feigning to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor, without just cause or excuse. As you can tell from the Reese Witherspoon case, it doesn’t take much to get arrested on disorderly conduct charges. She essentially talked back in a disrespectful manner to the police and refused to cooperate and she got arrested because of it.

A disorderly conduct charge is a misdemeanor charge and can carry a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. In deciding whether someone was engaging in disorderly conduct, the trier of fact takes into consideration the time and place of the utterance. They will also consider whether the conduct was in a public place. A public place is one that is so situated that what passes there can be seen by a large amount of people if they happen to look. It is a place exposed to the public and where the public gathers together or passes by. The content of the speech is also considered when determining if someone is guilty of the crime of disorderly conduct. Language, which is intended to put a police officer in fear or to intimidate or impede him in the discharge of his duties, is not constitutionally protected.

Lately, a very unhealthy trend has emerged with police officers.  This trend is to stop you from recording them.  This conduct is illegal but the best course of conduct is to see an attorney after the incident to address the police officer's conduct in a court of law. There are also defenses that are available to fight a disorderly conduct charge. For available defenses, contact your local experienced criminal defense attorney Daniel Selwa.

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