Disorderly Conduct Charges
Examples of Disorderly Conduct Charges
Disorderly conduct offenses vary widely by state. Here are some of the most common acts that are considered disorderly conduct offenses and related charges.
- Public drunkenness – or public intoxication is when, in a public place, under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or other drugs to the degree that he endangers himself, someone else, or personal or public property. The offense is usually a misdemeanor for which a person may be jailed for a short period of time or issued a citation and fine.
- Inciting a riot – Under federal law, a riot is a public disturbance involving an act of violence by one or more persons assembled in a group of at least three people. Inciting a riot can apply to someone who instigates others to riot. (Reference, 18 USCS § 2102 “to incite a riot”)
- Engaging in a Riot – In states like North Dakota, this is a misdeameanor charge of engaging with 5 or more persons in conduct which “by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function.”
- Disturbance of the peace – Disturbing the peace is a minor criminal offense that may be charged when someone makes excessive noise, especially in a residential area. Actual charges of disturbing the peace include, but are not limited to, those which make any excessive loud noise, or any noise that offends, or endangers the peace or safety of any person living in the area.
- Loitering & Vagrancy – Many states take aim with loitering statutes which are put in place to control begging, prostitution, drug dealing, or being a public nuisance. Loitering is punishable by fine, and police custody for no more than 24 hours.
- Fighting – A public physical altercation, generally a confrontation, resulting in physical aggression that may or may not result in injury.
- Failure to Disperse – Any order by police to leave an area where a group of people are congregating. Police may allege that a gathering is a danger to the public, creating a risk of injury or property damage. However, you still have First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free assembly.
- Interfering with a Police Officer’s Duties – Similar to failure to disperse, you can be accused of interfering with a police officer in performance of his duty if you allegedly don’t follow instructions immediately, such as to leave the building or area right away. This is often highly questionable when you have a lawful right to assemble.
- Unlawful Assembly – Similar to failure to disburse, the police can claim that a gathering is unlawful if it is tumultuous or riotous, although these claims are very subjective and subject to challenge under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Given the wide range of behaviors that could constitute disorderly conduct, a person may be arrested for this crime without proper cause. Virtually any socially offensive or disruptive conduct may be prosecuted as disorderly conduct.
And sometimes it can be less about what you are actually doing, then whether or not you are annoying or a nuisance to the police. It is not a crime to irritate a cop, but they are human too. They can make mistakes, get angry, and yes, abuse their authority by arresting you.
That’s why it makes sense to speak to a criminal defense lawyer about a disorderly conduct charge. It is often easy to argue that the officer overreacted when charging you with disorderly conduct, and your behavior did not meet the standards necessary for a criminal charge.