Disrupting the public order, or crimes against public order, are offenses which interfere with the normal operations of society. These types of crimes go against publicly shared customs, values, or norms.

Public order crimes do not require identifiable victims. An individual can be charged with a public order crime if their conduct or actions are considered harmful to society.

A public order crime focuses primarily on offensive conduct. Common examples of public order crimes include:

Public order offenses are based upon societal norms. Because of this, the definition may vary by community.

In some jurisdictions, a public order crime may or may not include:

In addition, the legal penalties for an individual who is convicted of a public order crime will vary depending on the offense. The punishment is typically split into two categories, including minor crimes and serious crimes.

Minor crimes include lesser charges, which includes disorderly conduct. These offenses may result in only misdemeanor charges or citations. In these instances, an offender may be required to pay a small monetary fine or serve a short jail sentence.

Serious crimes, which can include drug crimes, may result in felony charges. An offender may be required to pay a higher criminal fine or to serve a longer prison sentence.

In addition, a repeat offender may face harsher penalties. If the defendant was charged with a misdemeanor, repeat offenses may cause the charge to be increased to a felony.

It is typically a criminal offense to disrupt public order. An individual violates public order when they violate the normal operations of society. Another example of violating public order is disrupting a funeral service.

What is a Misdemeanor Charge?

A misdemeanor charge is one category of criminal charges. Misdemeanor crimes are more serious than citations but less serious than felonies.

In general, a misdemeanor is a less serious to moderate crime which is associated with less serious punishments. There are a broad range of crimes which are classified as misdemeanors, including a range of crimes from property crimes to assault and battery.

What crimes are categorized as misdemeanors vary by state. In certain cases, a felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor charge.

As previously noted, a misdemeanor typically involves minor damages to property or a minor injury to another individual. A misdemeanor crime is often broadly categorized and includes:

  • Crimes against persons;
  • Crimes against property; and
  • Crimes against public order or public safety.

Crimes against persons include offenses such as harassment, false imprisonment, and assault and battery. If the case involves more serious injuries or injuries which were caused by the use of a weapon, it is typically charged as a felony.

Crimes against property typically involve some type of theft. These offenses may include larceny charges or shoplifting.

Examples of crimes against public order or public safety include:

  • Disorderly conduct;
  • Noise violations;
  • Open alcohol container violations;
  • Prostitution; and
  • Minor in possession of alcohol.

In the majority of states, a misdemeanor is punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year in a county jail facility and may include a criminal fine. A misdemeanor sentence is not served in a state prison facility, as those facilities are generally reserved for felony charges.

There are some states which recognize wobbler crimes, or crimes which may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. A wobbler crime classification was originally created to ensure that the justice system maintains some flexibility.

It is important to note, however, that only some crimes may be considered wobblers. In addition, wobblers may only apply to certain defendants, such as a first time offender or a minor.

There are also states which have a category called unclassified misdemeanors. These are offenses which do not fit into any other classification of misdemeanors because they are too unique or because they involve a new issue which has yet to be addressed by the laws of the state.

Additionally, if the misdemeanor offense was not very serious in nature, it may be considered unclassified. Common examples of offenses which are categorized as unclassified misdemeanors include:

  • Minor gambling offenses; and
  • Moderate offenses, including:
    • Littering; and
    • Various traffic citations.

What is the Law Regarding Funeral Services in Texas?

In the State of Texas, it is unlawful to disrupt funeral services. This applies as early as three hours prior to the service beginning and as late as three hours after the service has finished.

Can I Picket during a Funeral Service?

No, an individual cannot picket during a funeral service. Texas laws prohibit picketing within 1,000 feet of a cemetery or a facility which is being used for a funeral service.

Why Was I Charged with Picketing a Funeral Service When I Was Not Holding up a Sign?

In the State of Texas, picketing may include carrying a sign, banner, or placard at a funeral service while:

  • Driving;
  • Riding;
  • Repeated walking;
  • Sitting; or
  • Standing.

In addition, picketing a funeral service may also include:

  • Loudly chanting with or without using a device such as a bullhorn or microphone;
  • Engaging in yelling with or without using a device including a bullhorn or a microphone;
  • Loudly singing or whistling with or without using a device such a bullhorn or microphone; or
  • Blocking access to a facility where a funeral service is held or to a cemetery.

What Does a “Facility” Mean?

A facility refers to any building where a funeral service is being held, which may include:

  • A mortuary
  • A funeral parlor
  • A private home; and
  • A place of worship.

What Does Texas Consider a Funeral Service?

In Texas, a funeral service includes anything which is held in connection with the burial or cremation of a deceased individual. This includes memorial services and celebration of life ceremonies.

What is the Punishment for Disrupting a Funeral Service in Texas?

Pursuant to Texas law, disrupting a funeral service is a Class B misdemeanor. An individual who is convicted of this offense may face:

  • 180 days in county jail;
  • A $2,000 criminal fine; or
  • Both time in county jail as well as a criminal fine.

Are There Any Defenses to Crimes against Public Order?

Yes, there are some defenses which a defendant can present against a public order crime charge. The majority of criminal defenses apply to public order crimes, including:

It is important to be aware that a defense will not entirely excuse a defendant from criminal liability. However, it may help reduce the defendant’s punishment or sentence.

Should I Contact an Attorney about Being Accused of Funeral Service Disruption?

It is essential to have the assistance of a Texas criminal attorney if you are charged with funeral service disruption. Although the charge is not a felony charge, it is still a very serious matter. If you have been charged with this offense, contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Your attorney will help you understand the laws which apply to the charges against you and determine if any defenses are available in your case. Your attorney will also represent you in court with you each time you are required to appear.