Almost every state has a disorderly conduct law making it a crime to be drunk in public, "disturb the peace," or loiter in certain areas. Since the statutes are often used as "catch-all" crimes, many types of obnoxious or unruly conduct may fit the definition. Generally speaking, police often use a disorderly conduct charge to keep the peace when a person is behaving in a disruptive manner, but presents no serious public danger.
In the following article, you'll find examples of state disorderly conduct laws, the possible penalties for this crime, and what you can do if you're experiencing the disorderly conduct of another.
Examples of State Disorderly Conduct Laws
The definition of disorderly conduct can vary from state to state. In New York, for instance, disorderly conduct requires the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or to recklessly create such a risk. Examples of such conduct include making unreasonable noise, obstructing traffic, and using obscene or abusive language in public.
In Texas, prosecutors must prove that a defendant intentionally and knowingly performed the act considered disorderly conduct. Thus, if the defendant performed the conduct unintentionally or not knowing that it disturbed the peace, they will likely not be convicted of the crime.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct
Similar to the definition of disorderly conduct, the penalties can vary widely and often depend on the exact nature of the conduct. For lesser offenses, a police officer may simply issue a citation requiring the recipient to pay a fine, like a traffic ticket.
For more dangerous or disruptive behavior, the police officer may bring the person to the local jail and require someone to bail the person out. In Florida, for example, most disorderly conduct violations are charged as a misdemeanor but inciting a riot can be charged as felony.
What Can You Do About Disorderly Conduct?
It can be frustrating to experience the disorderly conduct of another person. Luckily, there are certain steps you can take to stop the conduct.
- Ask Them to Stop the Behavior. If the person disturbing you is a neighbor or someone you know, and you don't feel physically threatened or in potential harm, you can explain to person that the conduct is problematic and ask him or her to stop. If the situation escalates, you should remove yourself immediately.
- Contact the Police. If the behavior continues, or if there's imminent danger (such as fighting) you may want to contact the police and report the situation. A person who disrupts the peace is often given a fair warning by police. In most cases, police involvement may stop the disruptive behavior altogether.
- Contact a Lawyer. Finally, if none of the above actions help your situation, and you suffer an injury as a result, it may be necessary to contact an attorney. In addition to violating criminal laws against disturbing the peace, disruptive behavior may violate nuisance laws, making a civil suit necessary. A restraining order, injunction, or other legal remedy may help you put an end to the disruptive behavior.
Facing Disorderly Conduct Charges? Talk to an Attorney
Whether you've been accused of disturbing the peace, being drunk in public, or any other behaviors that constitute disorderly conduct, it's important to know the consequences of a plea bargain or criminal conviction. Although these cases rarely rise to the level of felonious conduct, you should understand how pleading guilty or no contest can impact your criminal history. Contact a qualified criminal defense attorney near you to learn more.