Disorderly conduct is a criminal charge that is defined differently from state to state. They are also frequently very broadly defined in the statutes and applied in numerous different situations. Many of these definitions are similar, however, in that they forbid behaviors that disturb the peace and put the community in a dangerous situation.
In Missouri, disorderly conduct laws are also called a “peace disturbance”. The definition of this offense within the Missouri criminal statutes allows for it to be applied by law enforcement under numerous different scenarios. It’s this definition that results in some people being charged that didn’t even know they were breaking the law.
Disorderly conduct, or Missouri’s peace disturbance law, is sort of a catch-all for inconvenient and disruptive behaviors. It allows for simple annoyances to become criminal offenses just by an interpretation by law enforcement.
Missouri Disorderly Conduct Laws
What is a peace disturbance? Under Missouri law, there are many different ways to end up with a disorderly conduct/peace disturbance charge. You could face this offense if you:
Peace disturbance is defined as unreasonably and knowingly disturb or alarm another by:
- Loud noise,
- Offensive language likely to produce a violent response (fighting words),
- Threatening to commit a felony against someone where the threat puts them in fear,
- Creating a noxious, offensive odor, or
- Being in a public place or on private property of another without consent and causing inconvenience to another by unreasonably and physically obstructing vehicle or pedestrian traffic, or the free comings and goings.
Several of these behaviors are not thought of as overt criminal acts by most people. You could just be in an ornery mood or out having drinks with friends when your behavior crosses a line and the police decide to arrest you.
Missouri Disorderly Conduct / Peace Disturbance Penalties
The penalty you face for a peace disturbance in Missouri depends on whether you’ve ever faced the charge before. If this is your first offense, you are charged with a Class B misdemeanor. This carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 days to 6 months in jail and a fine of $500.
If, however, you have another peace disturbance conviction on your record, you will face a Class A misdemeanor charge and up to one year in jail with $1,000 in fines. As your convictions increase, so do your fines. A third or subsequent conviction carries no less than $1,000 and up to $5,000 in fines.
Ref: Missouri Revised Statutes §574.010
Fighting A Missouri Peace Disturbance Charge
When you are faced with a criminal charge, even a peace disturbance or disorderly conduct charge, all hope is not lost. You do have options. A criminal defense lawyer is there to help you explore those options and get the best results possible in court.
If it’s believed that the charge is being applied in a situation that simply didn’t call for it, your attorney may be able to assist you in getting the charges dropped altogether. Even if you do have to face the charges, negotiating with the prosecutor could save you from the worst penalties.
The best way to know for certain what you are up against is to consult with a criminal defense lawyer right away. Contact us for a legal case evaluation on your disturbing the peace / disorderly conduct criminal charge in Missouri.