Criminal Law

Disorderly Conduct

Key Takeaways:

  • Disorderly conduct is a crime involving disruptive or unruly behavior that disturbs the peace, safety, or order of a community or public place.
  • This misdemeanor typically includes actions such as fighting, public intoxication, excessive noise, offensive language, or causing public disturbances.
  • Penalties for a disorderly conduct conviction could include fines, community service, counseling, or even a short stay in jail.

Disorderly conduct is when you act in a disruptive or unruly manner that disturbs the peace in public places. This can include things like fighting, using offensive language, creating loud disturbances, or being intoxicated in public. The goal of disorderly conduct laws is to maintain order and keep public spaces safe and peaceful for everyone. Depending on where you are and the specific circumstances, you might face penalties like fines, community service, probation, or even a short time in jail.

If you are facing criminal charges related to disorderly conduct in your state, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with defending disorderly conduct cases to see how your state’s laws may affect you.

What Behaviors Could Be Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct is considered to be a catch-all crime because it can apply to a lot of actions. State laws are different across the U.S., and each state uses its own definition of this crime. Generally, it prohibits “obnoxious” or “rowdy” behavior in public. Some offensive behaviors that may lead to a disorderly conduct charge include causing public disturbances or public inconveniences like:

  • Disturbing the public peace
  • Acting in a vulgar or lewd manner
  • Loitering
  • Interfering with law enforcement
  • Provoking or trying to incite fights or violence
  • Shouting profanities, threats, or abusive language not protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and freedom of speech
  • Public intoxication
  • Blocking traffic or obstructing sidewalks
  • Making unreasonable noise

What Happens if I Am Charged With Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct is typically a misdemeanor charge in most states. Receiving a citation or being arrested for this offense means you are a defendant in a criminal law case.

In all criminal cases, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, there may be a police investigation to gather additional evidence or speak with anyone who may be a witness to your crime, or who can attest to your innocence in the matter. You may need to attend an arraignment, preliminary hearing, and pre-trial hearings before your case goes to trial.

As is often the case with disorderly conduct cases, prosecutors may offer you a plea deal to avoid going through a trial. If you move forward with a trial, you could still be found not guilty or guilty of disorderly conduct and await to hear the penalties at sentencing.

What Are the Penalties for Disorderly Conduct?

Like the definition of the crime, the penalties for the crime of disorderly conduct conviction or guilty plea change depending on your state’s disorderly conduct statute. A conviction will always result in a criminal record. This charge is typically classified as a misdemeanor punishable by fines, community service, substance abuse education programs, or probation. These penalties aim to discourage disruptive behavior and promote a sense of harmony and safety in public areas.

However, more serious incidents or if you have a prior criminal record could mean time in jail.

How Do I Decide if I Need an Attorney?

While the penalties you face may not include jail time, a disorderly conduct conviction will mean having a criminal record. It’s typically not a felony, but having to explain the circumstances of charges of disorderly conduct to a potential employer or anyone who asks can make your life harder.

Depending on your situation or any past criminal history, you may be unsure whether to accept a plea deal or go through the trial process to prove your innocence. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can counsel you on your rights, potential penalties, and offer legal advice on how to proceed. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you will be able to use a public defender to represent you.

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