Can you be drunk in public in South Carolina?

Answered by Ricardo McCardle

Under South Carolina state law, it is not illegal to simply be intoxicated in public. However, the law does prohibit what is referred to as “gross intoxication” in public places. While the term “gross intoxication” is not explicitly defined in the law, it generally refers to a level of intoxication that is considered excessive or extreme.

Section 16-17-530 of the South Carolina Code of Laws addresses the offense of gross intoxication in public. This law states that it is a misdemeanor to appear in a public place while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that one’s faculties are visibly impaired and it is apparent to others. The key element here is that the impairment must be visible and apparent to others, meaning that it is not sufficient for an individual to simply be intoxicated but rather their behavior or demeanor must show clear signs of impairment.

If someone is found guilty of violating this law, they may face punishment in the form of a fine of up to 100 dollars or imprisonment for a period of up to 30 days. It is important to note that these penalties are for a misdemeanor offense, not a felony.

It is worth mentioning that the enforcement of this law can vary depending on the specific circumstances and the discretion of law enforcement officers. While being intoxicated in public may not automatically lead to charges, if an individual’s behavior becomes disruptive, dangerous, or poses a threat to themselves or others, they may face additional charges related to disorderly conduct or public intoxication.

In my personal experience, I have seen instances where individuals who were visibly intoxicated but not causing any harm or disturbance were not approached by law enforcement. However, I have also witnessed situations where intoxicated individuals who were behaving in a disorderly or disruptive manner were confronted by law enforcement and potentially faced charges.

To summarize, it is not illegal to be intoxicated in public in South Carolina, but the law prohibits “gross intoxication” where an individual’s faculties are visibly impaired and apparent to others. If someone is found guilty of this offense, they may face a fine or imprisonment. However, the enforcement of this law can vary, and additional charges may be applied if the individual’s behavior becomes disruptive or poses a threat to others.