Disorderly Conduct is generally considered recklessly or intentionally engaging in violent behavior, disrupting a peaceful assembly of person, obstructing traffic, making unreasonable noises to disrupt the public and refusing to comply with a lawful order from the police. Every state has disorderly conduct laws that make it a crime to behave in a disruptive manner interfering with the public's peace.
Disorderly conduct includes crimes such as public drunkenness, disturbing the peace, loitering, and other civil disorders. Participating in unlawful assemblies or rioting may also fall under this category. Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor.
What Are Some Defenses to Disorderly Conduct Charge?
The defenses that can be used to defend a disorderly conduct charge can be:
- Self-defense: If the charge is for engaging in violence, claiming you were protecting yourself from assault may be viable
- Freedom of speech: If the charge is for making unreasonable noises or for engaging in public argument, claiming you have a right do so may get you off the hook. This defense should be used only in appropriate circumstances though, as the speech must be of certain nature to qualify for such protection.
- Public/Privacy Distinction: Disorderly conduct is mainly for disagreeable conduct in public. Police should not be invoking it for domestic disputes (a completely different set of laws govern that area)
- Failure to Prove Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: If the evidence is lacking or contradictory, you can walk.
What Are the Consequences of a Disorderly Conduct Charge?
The penalties of a disorderly conduct charge vary from state to state. In most states, a disorderly conduct conviction are considered misdemeanors and are punishable by fines, alcohol education programs, community service, probation, and jail sentencing of less than a year. Generally, the punishments that one can face for a disorderly conduct conviction are:
- Imprisonment, typically up to thirty days for first time offenders
- Fines, typically up to $500
- Probation, to ensure that behavior doesn’t occur again for a period of time
- Public record, may hinder employment or tenancy applications
What Are the Factors that Determine the Severity of the Punishment?
There are different factors that can contribute to the severity of a disorderly conduct punishment. Like every other crime, a punishment can be enhanced if the person who committed the crime is not a first time offender of the crime and has a criminal history. In contrast, a first time offender who has no criminal history will get a lesser criminal punishment. The following are the factors that determine the severity of a disorderly conduct punishment:
- Specific Activity and Statute Violated
- Use of Violence or Weapons
- Criminal history
- Damage to Property
- Resulting Personal Injury
What Can You Do if You are Accused of Disorderly Conduct?
If you are accused of disorderly conduct or a similar crime you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses, and the complicated legal system.