Disorderly conduct is a catch-all term which refers to several different actions, ranging from public urination to peeping into someone’s window. These are actions that are considered to be obnoxious or annoying, or behavior that will generally cause some type of public disturbance. It generally refers to behavior that is threatening or disruptive, or that poses harm to people in the nearby area.
Each state has its own laws defining what constitutes disorderly conduct. An example of this would be how some states require intent, while other states have determined that reckless behavior can also result in a disorderly conduct charge. Additionally, while many disorderly conduct crimes occur while the defendant is intoxicated, intoxication is not generally a necessary element of the crime.
You should be aware of what actions would constitute disorderly conduct in your state, as well as what will happen if you are charged with this crime. The punishments for disorderly conduct vary, and will be discussed later on.
It is common for this charge to be given when the action does not fit into the elements of another crime. Some common examples of actions that would generally be considered disorderly conduct include, but may not be limited to:
- Being loud in public while intoxicated;
- Disturbing the peace;
- Violating noise ordinances;
- Refusing to obey legal orders which involve public safety;
- Disrupting emergency services;
- Begging in public;
- Using language or gestures that are intended to provoke physical retaliation; and
- Disturbing a religious ceremony.
There are some actions which are more obviously disorderly conduct, and are considered to be a more serious crime. An example of this would be how fighting can lead to charges of disorderly conduct in several states; however, fighting can also result in charges of assault or battery depending on the specifics of the situation.
What Is Felony Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct crimes are generally considered to be misdemeanors. However, some states have felony exceptions. An example of this would be how some states consider false fire reports or harassment at a funeral to be felony disorderly conduct.
- Happens at an airport;
- Takes place during or near a funeral, as previously mentioned; and/or
- Involves a weapon, especially reckless handling of a deadly weapon such as a firearm.
An example of this would be how if a person is in a crowded place and discharges a gun into the air, they could be found guilty of felony disorderly conduct. Another example would be during a road rage incident, in which the defendant waved a gun at another driver while on the road. In cases such as these, the felony charges may result regardless of whether any person was hurt.
Alternatively, if the defendant points the gun directly at a person with the intent to intimidate them, the charges may escalate from felony disorderly conduct to aggravated assault charges.
What Are The Penalties For Felony Disorderly Conduct?
As previously mentioned, disorderly conduct is generally considered to be a misdemeanor crime. Depending on the severity of your actions as well as local law, you may simply receive a ticket for disorderly conduct; or, you may be arrested. If you are arrested, you will be booked and must be bailed out. However, you may not need to post bail, and will be released at the station. If you are required to pay your bail but fail to do so, you must wait in jail until your trial.
After you have been charged with disorderly conduct whether through a citation or arrest, you will appear in court in order to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you were arrested and plead not guilty, the court will then determine whether you can be released, or will remain in jail. Either bail will be set or the court will release you on the condition that you will appear for future court dates. This condition is referred to as release on recognizance.
Once that part of the process has been completed, you will need to consult with your criminal defense lawyer in order to discuss a plan of action. This may include attempting to get the charges dropped, negotiating a plea deal, or proceeding to trial.
In terms of felony disorderly conduct penalties specifically, they may vary by state but generally include a minimum of 1.5 years in prison as well as some criminal fines. Prison sentences may increase according to the seriousness of the threat, as well as if the person has a prior disorderly conduct charge on their record.
Some other examples of punishments that you may face for disorderly conduct include:
- Community service;
- Drug testing;
- Alcohol education; and/or
- Court ordered counseling.
Are There Any Legal Defenses To Felony Disorderly Conduct?
Whether there are any legal defenses to a felony disorderly conduct charge will largely depend on the circumstances of each specific case. Legal defenses for felony disorderly conduct would most likely mirror general defenses to felony offenses.
Some examples of the criminal defenses that are frequently used in felony cases include, but may not be limited to:
- Self Defense: A self-defense justification may be allowed when the defendant was not the aggressor; when their reaction was a reasonable response to a threat; and, when they actually and reasonably believed that they were in danger of imminent serious bodily injury or death. If fully proven, self-defense will generally completely absolve the defendant of the crime that they committed;
- Duress Or Necessity: This defense may be recognized for crimes committed under the threat of death or serious bodily injury. An example of this would be if someone forces someone else to steal a car by threatening them with a gun to the head. Duress could be used as a defense to a charge of auto theft.
- Necessity, which is also known as the lesser harm defense, may be a more appropriate defense if the defendant broke into a mountain cabin in order to prevent freezing to death in a blizzard. Although these defenses are highly uncommon, a criminal defendant has a complete defense if duress or necessity is successfully proven; and/or
- Intoxication: Intoxication in and of itself generally does not provide a defense to criminal charges, especially when the defendant became intoxicated voluntarily. If the defense can show that the influence of drugs or alcohol made the defendant unable to be guilty of intentionally committing the crime due to their diminished capacity, intoxication may justify a reduced charge. Alternatively, intoxication may provide a total defense for a defendant who became involuntarily intoxicated, such as being unknowingly drugged or forced to consume large amounts of alcohol.
Do I Need An Attorney For Felony Disorderly Conduct Charges?
If you are facing felony disorderly conduct charges, you should consult with an experienced and local criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney will be aware of your state’s specific laws regarding disorderly conduct, and how best to protect your rights and explore your legal options.
Your criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether any legal defenses are available to you based on the specifics of your case. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.