Disorderly conduct is a crime that can encompass several different actions, from public urination to peeping into someone’s window. This is generally viewed as a “catch-all” charge for actions that are considered obnoxious or annoying. The behavior will generally cause some type of public disturbance.
Each state will have their own laws about what classifies as disorderly conduct. For example, some states require intent while others say that reckless behavior can also lead to a disorderly conduct charge. While many disorderly conduct crimes occur while the person is intoxicated, this is not usually a necessary element of the crime.
You should know what constitutes disorderly conduct in your state and what will happen if you are charged with this crime. The punishments will vary and you may be able to remove the charge from your record. Again, all of this will be case specific and depend on your state’s laws regarding disorderly conduct.
What are Some Examples of Disorderly Conduct?
As noted above, many different actions can qualify as disorderly conduct since this is essentially a catch-all crime. Oftentimes, this charge will be given when the action does not fit into the elements of another crime. Here are a few examples of actions that would generally reach the minimum standard of disorderly conduct:
- Being loud in public while intoxicated;
- Begging in public; and
- Disturbing a religious ceremony.
Other actions are more clearly disorderly conduct and sometimes may even tip over into the territory of a more serious crime. For example, fighting can lead to charges of disorderly conduct in several states. However, a fight can also lead to charges of assault or battery depending on the scenario.
Again, remember that what is considered disorderly conduct will depend on your specific jurisdiction. Also be aware that disorderly conduct crimes are considered misdemeanors, unless your state has felony exceptions. For example, some states consider false fire reports or harassment at a funeral as amounting to felony disorderly conduct.
What Happens When You are Charged with Disorderly Conduct?
Depending on the severity of your actions and local law, you may just receive a ticket for disorderly conduct or you may be arrested. If you are arrested, you will be booked and need to be bailed out. However, you may not even have to post bail and just be released at the station. If you do not pay your bail, you will have to wait in jail until your trial.
After you are charged with disorderly conduct, whether it be through a citation or arrest, you will need to appear in court to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you were arrested and plead not guilty, the court will determine whether you can be released or will remain in jail. Again, bail will be set or the court will decide to release you with the understanding that you will appear for future court dates, which is called release on recognizance.
After that, you will need to consult with your criminal defense lawyer to formulate a plan. This can include trying to get the charges dropped, negotiating a plea deal, or proceeding to trial.
What Types of Punishments Can You Face for Disorderly Conduct?
There are a range of punishments you can face for disorderly conduct, but they generally will not be very severe. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor charge for disorderly conduct, you could face a fine, probation, community service, drug testing, alcohol education, counseling, and/or jail time of up to one year. Jail time is usually rare in these cases and if you served any jail time awaiting trial after your arrest, this will be deducted from any jail sentence that you receive as time served.
On the remote instance that you get felony charges for disorderly conduct, you will face more severe penalties. This would likely be higher fines and longer jail time.
Can You Remove a Charge of Disorderly Conduct From Your Record?
After you have been charged and convicted with disorderly conduct, the crime will remain on your public record for some time. This will depend on your state’s specific laws. You may be able to get an arrest and/or conviction expunged from your record. In some states, it may just expire and automatically be removed from your record but other states will require you to petition for expungement.
For example, in Pennsylvania, you can get a single offense of disorderly conduct expunged from your criminal record five years after your conviction. You will need to file a petition with the court asking for expungement.
In New York, there is no way to expunge a criminal record of disorderly conduct. However, violations for disorderly conduct can be partially sealed. This is an automatic process that will not require intervention on your part.
As you can see, the removal process for disorderly conduct charges and convictions all vary based on where you reside. It is critical to know your state’s stance on this if you face disorderly conduct charges.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have Been Charged with Disorderly Conduct?
If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, you should hire a criminal defense lawyer to help with your case. If you cannot afford a lawyer then the court can appoint a public defender. A lawyer can represent you in all court proceedings and try to negotiate a deal that does not include jail time.