Most people don’t engage in criminal activity, and never find themselves accused of a criminal offense. Even those that do sometimes don’t know that what they’re doing could amount to a crime. While ignorance of the law is not a viable defense in a court of law, we often see this in disorderly conduct cases.
The laws surrounding disorderly conduct are quite broad and open to interpretation. Because of this it occasionally happens that a person is arrested and totally clueless as to how they broke the law. Unfortunately, even in cases like these, jail time and a permanent criminal record is possible.
You might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time or you may have let your temper get the best of you. Whatever the situation, a defense lawyer can examine your case and help you determine the best course of action in your specific situation. Their concern is getting you the best results possible, given the circumstances.
What is Disorderly Conduct?
Under North Carolina law, there are several behaviors that could be constituted as “disorderly conduct.” Those include:
- Refusing to leave an establishment after being ordered to do so
- Disrupting any religious or burial service
- Blocking access to a business or disrupting a business
- Fighting or engaging in conduct that creates the threat of violence
- Taking possession of a facility without permission
- Using any language or gestures that are likely to incite fighting or violence
- Disrupting a class or the operation of a school
The NC General statute specifically defines disorderly conduct as an action that “Makes or uses any utterance, gesture, display or abusive language which is intended and plainly likely to provoke violent retaliation and thereby cause a breach of the peace.”
This kind of language makes a person exercising their constitutionally protected free speech responsible for another person’s unreasonable violent retaliation.
Ref: NCGS 14-288.4
It’s easy to see how a variety of behaviors could result in a North Carolina disorderly conduct charge. It’s this varied application of the law that can often lead to a misinterpretation of your actions by police and ultimately, dropped charges. If there is a lack of evidence in your case, your defense lawyer can motion for the judge to throw the charges out.
However, if you are convicted of disorderly conduct, you will face class 2 misdemeanor penalties which include 30 days to 6 months in jail and fines.
How a Defense Lawyer Can Help
Many disorderly conduct charges are absolutely legitimate free speech expressions, and are unfairly charged by annoyed or angry cops just looking to diffuse a public situation. Cases like that should absolutely be dropped.
A lawyer can argue for a dismissal on both first amendment grounds, or simply that the police officer made in judgement, and that the action that lead to the arrest was perfectly legal behavior, even if nominally disruptive.
If a plea deal makes sense, and if you have an otherwise clean criminal record, there’s a good chance your defense attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor that will help you avoid jail time. But in some situations, the charges aren’t warranted at all—in those cases your defense lawyer will work tirelessly to ensure your good name is protected in court, fighting for the best possible results.
When you are charged with disorderly conduct, you need someone on your side looking out for your best interests. Let us put you in contact with a North Carolina criminal defense lawyer today for a free consultation.