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Is swearing in public disorderly conduct?

Which of the five scenarios can be considered "disorderly conduct"?

1. Swearing when accidently slamming your hand in the car door in the parking lot at church.

2. Having one too many glasses of wine at a restaurant and weaving as you walk out.

3. Firing your gun into the air at the end of your driveway on New Year's Eve.

4. Telling an off color joke in an elevator to your friend.

5. Having a large dance party at your own house and when the police arrive telling them to either dance or leave as they were not invited.

Technically, in one way or another, the police could decide to charge you with disorderly conduct for ANY of the above. This is because South Carolina law is vague when it comes to what exactly constitutes disorderly conduct.

What is disorderly conduct?

The law states that disorderly conduct can include:

· Being drunk in a public place (this includes a large party at your house, a restaurant or the bus)

· Behaving in a "boisterous" manner

· Using profane or obscene language near a church or school

· Discharging any gun within 50 yards of a public road

The list is rather subjective. After all, what is boisterous? The definition includes "cheerful" and "energetic." It is left up to the individual officer to determine if your behavior or language is upsetting, annoying, enraging or "disorderly."

But what about the First Amendment?

The First Amendment does allow us to speak our minds and to criticize our government. But, not everything we say is protected. We cannot shout "Fire!" into a crowded theater when there is actually no fire. This use of language could lead to injury and even death.

We may put ourselves at risk for disorderly conduct charges by using language that leads to illegal activity and violence. There is however, a reason the symbol for justice is a scale. We have to balance individual rights with the welfare of our community. We also have to have recourse when there are abuses of power. When deciding what is "boisterous" or "profane" is left to individual officers there is always room for error.

Disorderly conduct charges are nothing to ignore. These charges can leave a permanent stain on your record and have a negative effect on future jobs, leases and educational opportunities. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct call attorney Adam Young.

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