In Washington state, disorderly conduct is a criminal offense. While you may not see it as being serious when compared with other crimes, it’s serious enough to land you in jail and leave a permanent mark on your record that will appear on a background check.
Disorderly conduct charges, either being arrested or issued a criminal citation by a police officer, are frequently brought about under questionable circumstances. Because the act of disorderly conduct is defined in a fairly broad manner under Washington law, police will use it in situations where it isn’t really warranted.
You may just be in a group engaged in a peaceful protest, but simply because of the size of the crowd taking up too much space in a small area, the police might feel like it is disruptive, and start dragging people out and issuing disorderly conduct charges. That doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, you were just in the front and the cops started grabbing people.
Washington Disorderly Conduct Laws
What is disorderly conduct? In Washington, disorderly conduct is considered a public disturbance or a breach of the public peace. It can be applied when it’s believed that you:
- Disrupted a lawful meeting or assembly,
- Used abusive language that created the risk of assault,
- Intentionally obstructed traffic without authority,
- Engaged in fighting or making unreasonable noise within 500 feet of a funeral, wake, burial, or memorial service.
Using abusive language that creates the risk of assault is also known as using “fighting words”. This applies when you use words or language that you know could provoke a violent reaction in someone.
If you are charged with disorderly conduct in Washington, you are charged with a misdemeanor. This means the offense can carry a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. In most cases, jail time can be avoided, though that’s not always true. Discussing the specifics of your situation with an attorney can help you understand your options and the likelihood that you’ll be spending time behind bars.
Ref: RCW 9A.84.030
Washington Failure to Disperse Law
Failure to disperse is related to disorderly conduct and is also considered a breach of the public peace. This offense is another that is commonly used by police when they are annoyed or aggravated with someone’s less than compliant behavior. Often, people charged with this offense shouldn’t face a criminal charge.
You could be charged with this offense if you congregate with a group and you fail to disperse when asked to do so by law enforcement. You could also be charged though if the congregation creates a risk of injury to another or to property.
Failure to disperse is another misdemeanor charge that carries up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Ref: RCW 9A.84.020
Fighting A Washington Disorderly Conduct Charge
What can be done? Regardless of the charge you are facing, the right criminal defense lawyer is crucial. From negotiating a plea agreement with the prosecution to motioning that all charges be dismissed, your criminal defense attorney is your advocate in the courts, working to ensure you get the best possible results.
If you are charged with disorderly conduct or a similar offense in Washington state, contact us to speak with a local lawyer today as part of a free criminal defense legal consultation and case evaluation.