Intoxicated and Disruptive in Public


To be completely clear, North Carolina law, specifically, North Carolina General Statute § 14-447(a) states that there is no prosecution for public intoxication. The statute states that no person may be prosecuted solely for being intoxicated in a public place. As long as the individual is not disruptive in any way, they can be assisted without facing any form of criminal charges. Put in common sense terms, it is not illegal to be drunk in public despite what you have seen or heard on television.


  • The term “intoxicated” means the condition of a person whose mental or physical functioning is presently substantially impaired as a result of the use of alcohol.
  • The term “public place” means a place that is open to the public, whether it is publicly or privately owned.
  • “Alcoholism” is the state of a person who habitually (continuously) lacks self-control as to the use of alcoholic beverages, or uses alcoholic beverages to the extent that his/her health is substantially impaired or endangered or his social or economic function is substantially disrupted.

North Carolina General Statute § 14-444 (Intoxicated and Disruptive in Public)

What is actually a crime and unlawful is being disruptive and intoxicated in public. In the statute, it shall be unlawful for any person in a public place to be intoxicated and disruptive in any of the following ways:

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

The punishment that you could face is a Class 3 misdemeanor. Even though this is the lowest class of misdemeanors, it can still appear on your record and become a negative blemish in your life.

Are there any defenses to an intoxicative and disruptive charge?

Yes! If the person is charged with this crime, the defense of alcoholism can be used. However, depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the individual’s condition, the judge may request additional information on whether the defendant is actually suffering from alcoholism.

It is very important to know that if an individual is found not guilty because of the defense of alcoholism. The judge can make the determination to involuntarily commit the individual. Under N.C.G.S. § 122C-281, an individual who has knowledge of a substance abuser who is dangerous to self or others can (by the clerk or a magistrate judge) issue an order to a law enforcement officer to take the individual into custody for examination by a commitment examiner. The individual must be taken into custody within 24 hours after the order is signed.