Public safety crimes may also be referred to as crimes against the public. These are specific crimes which affect the general public, rather than affecting a specific person. Public safety crimes can range in severity from simple citations, such as public drunkenness, to more serious misdemeanor crimes, such as those involving weapons. Specific examples of public safety crimes will be further discussed below.
The criminalization of certain acts against the public generally seeks to prevent people from engaging in conduct that is considered to be dangerous to the local community. Two examples of this would be anti-fireworks laws, or anti-firearm regulations. Additionally, crimes against the public intend to protect certain sectors of the public. An example of this would be teen curfews. Laws associated with public safety crimes can vary widely from state to state, and even by jurisdiction.
What Is Disorderly Conduct?
One of the most prevalent examples of public safety crimes would be disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is an umbrella term used to describe many different criminal actions, from public urination to peeping into someone’s window. It is generally viewed as a “catch-all” charge for actions that are considered to be obnoxious or annoying, and behavior that will usually cause some type of public disturbance.
Each state has its own laws regarding what behaviors may be classified as disorderly conduct. An example of this would be how some states require intent, while other states maintain that reckless behavior can result in a disorderly conduct charge. Although many disorderly conduct crimes occur while the violator is intoxicated, it is not generally a necessary element of the crime.
It is common for this charge to be given when the action does not exactly fit into the elements of another crime. Some examples of actions that would generally be considered disorderly conduct include, but may not be limited to:
- Being loud in public while intoxicated;
- Begging in public, or panhandling; and
- Disturbing a religious ceremony.
There are some other actions that are more obviously disorderly conduct, and could become a more serious crime. An example of this would be how fighting can lead to charges of disorderly conduct in several states; however, a fight can also result in charges for assault or battery. Disorderly conduct crimes are generally considered to be misdemeanors, unless your state has felony exceptions. An example of this would be how some states consider false fire reports or harassment at a funeral as felony disorderly conduct.
What Is Disturbing The Peace?
Another prevalent example of public safety crimes would be disturbing the peace. Disturbing the peace is a criminal offense that is closely related to disorderly conduct. The crime happens when a person does some sort of disorderly conduct in public, such as:
Very simply put, disturbing the peace happens when a person’s conduct or word of conduct interferes with the public right to peace.
Disturbing the peace may also occur when a person is playing music at excessively loud volumes, either in the public or within their own home. This generally happens through the use of stereo equipment in a home or in a vehicle. Playing loud music may be considered an offense if the city enforces a specific noise ordinance.
Each state and city maintains its own statutes governing the offense of disturbing the peace. The purpose of such laws is to help avoid public disorder and chaotic conduct by individuals while they are out in public. These laws are intended to prevent people from hurting, annoying, and interfering with the public’s peace when their conduct is excessive.
What Are False Reports Of Terrorism?
An especially serious example of public safety crimes would be making a false report of terrorism. Many states have statutes in place, making it illegal for a person to make a false report of a terrorist attack or threat. These false claims are considered to be a gross waste of resources, including time, money, and personnel that could be devoted to real terrorism attacks.
The defining concern associated with false reports of terrorist activity is that they can have the same effect on the public as a real report. What this means is that the general public may respond to the threat as if it were real, which could result in further disorder or injury. This is why many states categorize false reports of terrorism as a felony, such as New York and Michigan.
In many states, the penalties for the crime of false report of terrorism include prison time, which is to be spent in a federal facility. These sentences range anywhere from 7-20 years. Consequences may also include significantly heavy criminal fines. It is important to note that some states consider the crime to be a violent felony, even if the defendant did not specifically commit any violent acts when filing a false report of terrorism.
The elements for proving false report of terrorism include, but may not be limited to:
- The accused made a false report of a terrorist act, or a terrorist threat;
- The accused had the knowledge that the report is untrue; and
- The accused communicated the false report to at least one other person.
It is important to note that this definition also includes making reports regarding fake threats, and not just terrorist actions. What this means is that this could also include falsely accusing another person of being a terrorist, while knowing that the accusation is false.
A common example of this crime would be when a person makes a phone call to the police, stating that a bomb has been placed in a public place such as an airport. If the person knew that the threat was false, they will likely be held liable under criminal law, and receive a felony charge on their criminal record. Because the crime is considered to be a felony, it could have effects on other rights, such as immigration status or the right to bear arms.
Are There Any Other Examples Of Public Safety Crimes? What Are The Legal Penalties For Public Safety Crimes?
Some other examples of public safety crimes include:
- Laws involving minors, such as underage drinking and juvenile curfew laws;
- Breach of the peace, and other related violations;
- Prohibitions on weapons and firearms, especially handguns;
- Loitering and vagrancy laws, especially gang loitering ordinances;
- Fireworks prohibitions;
- Laws involving environmental concerns, such as hazardous waste disposal and toxic materials; and
- Various alcohol crimes and public drunkenness.
To reiterate, these types of public safety crimes may differ from neighborhood to neighborhood. Conduct that is illegal in one area may be allowed in a different area, which is especially common for public safety laws involving the consumption of alcohol.
The legal penalties for crimes against public safety will vary greatly, based on the nature and severity of the crime. Generally speaking, public safety crimes are misdemeanors, which are punishable by a criminal fine and/or a jail sentence. This sentence is to be served in a county jail, and not in a federal prison facility unless the crime is considered to be a felony.
Less severe violations may result in only a citation or a traffic ticket, which is payable by a small fine. However, even such minor violations can result in misdemeanor charges after several repeat offenses. In the same vein, simple misdemeanor charges can turn into felony charges with repeat offenses.
Do I Need An Attorney For Public Safety Crimes?
If you are being charged with any sort of public safety crime, you should consult with an experienced and local criminal defense lawyer. An area attorney will be best suited to understanding your state’s specific laws regarding the matter, and what your legal options are under those laws.
Your criminal defense attorney can also help you determine whether there are any legal defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case. Finally, an experienced attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.