Memorial Day is historically a time to cut loose and celebrate both loved ones lost and the beginning of summer. However, celebration can sometimes can lead to run-ins with the law.
Aside from DUIs, one of the most common criminal charges on big party days like this is disorderly conduct. Although this is only a misdemeanor and has relatively minor criminal consequences, you’re still left with a criminal record that affects many aspects of life.
Below we cover North Carolina’s laws surrounding disorderly conduct, and some of the criminal and civil consequences you could face if convicted.
What Is North Carolina Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct refers to behaviors that disturb others or generally disturb the peace. Under North Carolina law, there are a number of behaviors that could be considered disorderly conduct:
- Refusing to leave an establishment when ordered to do so
- Fighting or encouraging conduct that creates violence or the threat of violence
- Disrupting a religious or burial service
- Blocking access to or disrupting a business
- Using language or gestures that are likely to incite violence or fighting
Closely related is North Carolina’s “failure to disperse” law. If an officer believes a riot, protest or other congregation of people is creating a risk of injury – for example a protest becomes violent – he will order congregants to leave.
In the context of Memorial Day, this could include rowdy parties broken up by police. Failing to comply with this order could result in a “failure to disperse” charge.
Criminal Consequences of a North Carolina Disorderly Conduct Conviction
If you are a first-time offender, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. Conviction can result in penalties including 30 days to six months in jail, probation, fines and community service.
However, in many cases, the judge will commute the jail sentence to probation. That said, subsequent disorderly conduct violations can lead to felony-level charges.
The Consequences of a Criminal Record in NC
When most people think of being convicted of a crime, they think of jail time and other criminal consequences. One frequently overlooked penalty, you face long after your case is closed – and often indefinitely: having a criminal record.
For instance, a criminal record changes how you’re treated by employers and society, and can permanently alter the course of your life.
North Carolina is an “employment at will” state. This gives employers significant discretion over hiring and firing employees.
Often employers steer clear of hiring those with a criminal record without ever considering the crime or time since the offense occurred. Additionally, apart from federal civil rights violations, you can be fired for any reason at all. Some routinely fire employees for any criminal activity, even if the employee is arrested and released without charge.
This is just one aspect of your life that can be affected by having a history. Even if you are only convicted of a minor crime such as disorderly conduct, being involved with the criminal justice system is stressful, and often compromises family life and work performance, among other things.
How to Fight Back
Fortunately, a disorderly conduct charge does not equate to a conviction. Depending on the specifics of your arrest, there are a number of defense strategies available that might help your case.
You can also have your arrest record expunged immediately if the charges are dropped or you are acquitted. If you are ultimately convicted, you can generally apply to seal your criminal record a few years after your sentence and probation are complete.
Although these solutions seem simple enough, you’d be surprised at how many convicted persons don’t bother pursuing them. Making the effort can mean the difference between having the life you want and getting by, so we say it’s worth a shot.