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North Carolina Disorderly Conduct Laws

What Is Disorderly Conduct in North Carolina?

"Disorderly conduct" refers to actions that disturb other people. Under North Carolina law, there are several behaviors that could be constituted as "disorderly conduct."

Those include:

  • Refusing to leave an establishment after being ordered to do so;
  • Disrupting any religious or burial service;
  • Blocking access to a business or disrupting a business;
  • Fighting or engaging in conduct that creates the threat of violence;
  • Taking possession of or seizing any public or private school building or facility without permission without permission;
  • Using any language or gestures that are likely to incite fighting or violence;
  • Disrupting a class or the operation of a school.

Failure to Disperse

North Carolina has a related law known as "failure to disperse." If any law enforcement officer believes a riot is occurring and orders you to leave or disperse from a situation and you fail to comply, you could be charged with this offense.

You could also be charged if you congregate in an area and create a risk of injury to another or to property.

What Is Considered a Congregation of People?

The law varies, but typically that means assemblage of three (3) or more persons. Most notably, a group of people in North Carolina citizens were arrested and charged with failure to disperse in connection with a grassroots movement known as "Moral Mondays." Protesters were arrested inside the North Carolina legislature, following proposed voting restrictions that would require state-issued photo identification to cast a ballot.

The following table highlights the main provisions of North Carolina's disorderly conduct laws. See Disturbing the Peace, Public Intoxication, and Public Safety Violations for more information.

Code Sections

Disorderly Conduct: NC General Statutes Section 14-288.4

Failure to Disperse: NC General Statutes Section 14-288.5

What is Prohibited

Disorderly Conduct (see above explanation)

Failure to Disperse (see above explanation)

Funeral Picketing:

  • Displaying within 500 feet of the memorial or procession any threats, or images or words likely to provoke a violent reaction
  • Singing, chanting, yelling, or using abusive or threatening language within 500 feet of the memorial or procession, or
    blocking cars or people as they try to attend the service.

Misdemeanor, Punishable by 30 days to 6 months in jail, possible fines, probation, and community service.

Subsequent violations can lead to felony charges.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Get Legal Help with Your Disorderly Conduct Case in North Carolina

Because North Carolina's disorderly conduct laws can sometimes get complicated, particularly surrounding the right to free speech under the First Amendment, it may be a good idea to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have questions about your case.

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