States, including Wisconsin, have created public peace and safety laws to prevent their residents from being disturbed by unreasonably offensive conduct. These laws are commonly known as disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace laws.
Public Intoxication in Wisconsin
Another component of public order laws is public intoxication laws. Many states have enacted these to keep alcohol drinking out of public spaces. While Wisconsin doesn't consider drinking in public or being drunk in public alone to be a crime, a person who is drunk can be placed in protective custody by a police officer. This can be either taking to a public treatment facility, an emergency medical facility, or holding at the station where other options aren't available, but without any record indicating there's an arrest.
Wisconsin's disorderly conduct related laws are outlined in the table below.
Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 947: Crimes Against Public Peace, Order, and Other Interests
What is Prohibited?
The following disorderly conduct offenses are a crime in Wisconsin:
- Disorderly Conduct - Engaging in violent, abusive, indecent, unreasonably loud, or other behavior where the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance, but unless there's a criminal or malicious intent, loading, carrying, or being armed with a firearm isn't a violation of this law. Examples of disorderly conduct include appearing on stage nude to elicit audience reaction and defying a police officer's order to move.
- Vagrancy - Any of the following are considered vagrants in Wisconsin, although it should be noted that vagrancy laws are now viewed by many as merely laws that criminalize homelessness:
- A person with the physical ability to work who doesn't have a lawful means of support and doesn't seek employment
- A prostitute who loiters on the streets or where alcohol is sold
- A person who solicits others to commit sexual morality crimes (like prostitution)
- A person who gambles frequently or gets his or her income from begging or as a fortune teller
- Drinking in Common Carriers - A person who drinks alcohol in public on a bus, train, airplane, or other common carrier (except in areas where drinking is allowed) or gives other alcohol with intent to provoke a disturbance.
- Causing Violence or Breach of the Peace by Damaging or Destroying a US Flag - Destroying, damaging, or getting urine, feces, or spit on the United States flag with the intent to cause imminent violence or a breach of the peace where the person doing so knows his or her conduct is likely to cause violence or a breach of the peace
This same chapter contains laws prohibiting disrupting a funeral or memorial service, harassment, bomb scares, and unlawful assemblies.
All of the disorderly conduct related crimes above are misdemeanors. The punishments vary by class.
- Class A Misdemeanor - No more than 9 months in jail and a fine up to $10,000 (breaching the peace by damaging a US flag)
- Class B Misdemeanor - No more than 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000 (disorderly conduct)
- Class C Misdemeanor - No more than 30 days in jail and a fine up to $500 (vagrancy, drinking in common carriers)
Note: State laws change frequently -- contact a local attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the laws you're researching.
Research the Law
Wisconsin Disorderly Conduct Laws: Related Resources