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In North Carolina, as long as you’re over the age of 21, enjoying a few drinks isn’t against the law – even if you’re stumbling around the block to get to the next bar. However, drunken behavior can quickly turn into an altercation that is unlawful in our state.

What Happens If You Are Intoxicated in Public and Run into NC Police?

If you run into law enforcement officials while you are intoxicated in public, you may be taken into protective custody or directed to your home. Protective custody, even if it takes place in the local jail, does not result in criminal charges. Police will not even take someone into protective custody in North Carolina unless they need food, shelter, or clothing.

Something important to know is that police may use reasonable force to escort a person into protective custody. The intoxicated person will be released when they are sober or have stayed in protective custody for 24 hours.

So, when does public drunkenness become illegal?

Intoxicated and Disruptive: When Being Drunk Becomes a Crime

Again, public intoxication is not a crime, but a person who is intoxicated in public and causing a scene may end up with criminal charges. North Carolina has an Intoxicated and Disruptive charge (commonly known as Drunk and Disorderly).

When do you cross the line from being intoxicated to Intoxicated and Disruptive?

North Carolina law says you can be charged with a crime if you are:

  • Blocking or otherwise interfering with traffic on a highway or public vehicular area
  • Blocking or lying across or otherwise preventing or interfering with access to or passage across a sidewalk or entrance to a building
  • Grabbing, shoving, pushing, or fighting others, or challenging others to fight
  • Cursing or shouting at or otherwise rudely insulting others
  • Begging for money or other property.

Being Intoxicated and Disruptive is a class 3 misdemeanor in North Carolina. If convicted, defendants can face up to 20 days in prison, probation, or serving community penalties. Penalties may be more severe if the defendant has additional misdemeanor or felony charges on their record, or if they were violating their probation.

Keep in mind that Intoxicated and Disruptive is a completely separate charge from a DUI. If you were caught drinking while behind the wheel, you may face more serious charges.

The Defense of Alcoholism in North Carolina

In addition to more common defenses, North Carolina allows people to use alcoholism as a defense for Intoxicated and Disruptive crimes.

Judges can bring this defense up even if the defendant does not, and may allow the trial to be pushed back by 15 days to determine whether or not the defendant suffers from alcoholism.

The Defense of Alcoholism in North Carolina

Alcoholism as a defense may lead the judge to sentence the defendant to a counseling program instead of prison or community service. If the defendant is not guilty, the court may still have jurisdiction over them for 15 days to make sure they are not a danger to themselves or others.

Charged with Being Intoxicated and Disruptive? Talk to a North Carolina Lawyer

Class 3 misdemeanors are not the most serious charges, but they can certainly add up on your criminal record. If you really want to protect your future, even minor charges should be handled by an experienced defense lawyer.

Reach out to a North Carolina lawyer today and learn more about how to create a defense strategy for this type of charge.

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